Outcomes of MBSR or MBSR-based interventions in health care providers: A systematic review with a focus on empathy and emotional competencies

Complement Ther Med. 2016 Feb:24:19-28. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2015.11.001. Epub 2015 Nov 27.


Background: Emotional competencies are extremely important for healthcare providers exposed to patients' suffering. The effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been studied in this population. However, it is unclear whether capacities identified as core for care are modified favourably by this intervention.

Objectives: (1) To identify outcomes in studies on the effect of MBSR in healthcare providers. (2) To evaluate the impact of MBSR on these outcomes. (3) To assess current knowledge on whether capacities central to care are positively impacted by MBSR: empathy, identification of one's own emotions, identification of other's emotions and emotional acceptance.

Methods: We performed a systematic review on interventional studies published up to 2015 evaluating the effect of MBSR in healthcare professionals. A subset of studies including empathy and emotional competencies was assessed for bias following current methodological standards.

Results: Thirty nine studies were identified. 14/39 studies measured empathy or some form of emotional competence in healthcare providers. Evidence regarding the effects of MBSR in professionals suggests this intervention is associated with improvements in burnout, stress, anxiety and depression. Improvements in empathy are also suggested but no clear evidence is currently available on emotional competencies.

Conclusions: High quality evidence is available on the effect of MBSR on professionals' mental health. However, while some emotional competencies have been identified as being of major importance for high quality care, they are still scarcely studied. Studying these outcomes is important, as it may help explain how mindfulness contributes to professionals' mental health and thus help develop targeted interventions.

Keywords: Burnout; Emotion regulation; Empathy; Health care providers; MBSR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emotional Intelligence / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Empathy / physiology
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Young Adult