SUNDAY, Oct. 23, 2016 — If you’re having a tough time, the United States is a pretty good place to find some understanding, a new study contends.
The research found that America ranks seventh among nations in terms of empathy.
More than 104,000 people from 63 countries completed an online survey of empathy, which measured compassion for others and the ability to imagine other people’s point of view.
Ecuador was ranked as the most empathetic country. It was followed by Saudi Arabia, Peru, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Korea, the United States, Taiwan, Costa Rica and Kuwait, the study showed.
Seven of the 10 least empathetic countries were in Eastern Europe, and Lithuania was in last place.
The study did not distinguish between respondents’ empathy toward people in their own nations and those in other countries.
While the U.S. placed seventh, that could change fairly soon because in recent decades Americans have become increasingly focused on themselves and less on others, said study lead author William Chopik.
“These changes might ultimately cause us to leave our close relationships behind,” Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, said in a school news release.
“People are struggling more than ever to form meaningful close relationships. So, sure, the United States is seventh on the list, but we could see that position rise or fall depending on how our society changes in the next 20 to 50 years,” he said.
Chopik noted that the study “only grabbed a snapshot of what empathy looks like at this very moment” and that cultures are constantly changing.
“This is particularly true of the United States, which has experienced really large changes in things like parenting practices and values,” he said. “People may portray the United States as this empathetic and generous giant, but that might be changing.”
There is more on empathy at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.