Exploring compassion: a meta-analysis of the association between self-compassion and psychopathology

Clin Psychol Rev. 2012 Aug;32(6):545-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2012.06.003. Epub 2012 Jun 23.


Compassion has emerged as an important construct in studies of mental health and psychological therapy. Although an increasing number of studies have explored relationships between compassion and different facets of psychopathology there has as yet been no systematic review or synthesis of the empirical literature. We conducted a systematic search of the literature on compassion and mental health. We identified 20 samples from 14 eligible studies. All studies used the Neff Self Compassion Scale (Neff, 2003b). We employed meta-analysis to explore associations between self-compassion and psychopathology using random effects analyses of Fisher's Z correcting for attenuation arising from scale reliability. We found a large effect size for the relationship between compassion and psychopathology of r=-0.54 (95% CI=-0.57 to -0.51; Z=-34.02; p<.0001). Heterogeneity was significant in the analysis. There was no evidence of significant publication bias. Compassion is an important explanatory variable in understanding mental health and resilience. Future work is needed to develop the evidence base for compassion in psychopathology, and explore correlates of compassion and psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress, Psychological