The Association Between Well-Being and Empathy in Medical Residents: A Cross-Sectional Survey

J Integr Complement Med. 2024 Feb 27. doi: 10.1089/jicm.2023.0116. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To evaluate the extent to which personal well-being may be associated with empathy, while controlling for potential confounders. Settings/Location: Residency programs throughout the United States. Subjects: A total of 407 medical residents from residencies including general medicine, surgery, specialized and diagnostic medicine participated in this study. Outcome Measures: Well-being was measured using the modified existential well-being subscale of the spiritual well-being scale. Empathy was measured using the Jefferson Scale of Empathy. Results: Well-being was found to be positively correlated with empathy when adjusted for possible confounders (p < 0.001). In addition to well-being, other factors noted to be statistically significant contributors to higher empathy scores while controlling for the others included age, gender, year in residency, specialty, and work-hours (p < 0.05 for each). After controlling for these factors, a resident's year in residency was not found to be a statistically significant contributor to empathy score. Conclusions: In this study, well-being was associated with empathy in medical and surgical residents. Empathy is a fundamental component of physician competency, and its development is an essential aspect of medical training. These findings suggest that efforts to increase well-being may promote empathy among medical residents.

Keywords: demography; empathy; internship and residency; personal satisfaction; physicians; physician–patient relations.