Evaluating the relationship of empathic concern to college students’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication date: Jul 12, 2023

Objective: Empathic concern (EC) for others may be related to COVID-19 pandemic responses. Participants and methods: The purpose of this survey study was to examine differences in pandemic responses in 1,778 college students rated as low (LE) versus high (HE) on the EC subscale of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Results: HE participants reported greater concerns in numerous pandemic-related domains, including acquiring COVID-19; access to COVID-19 treatment; number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths reported; staying employed; and being isolated for long periods of time. Generalized anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, and perceived stress scores were significantly higher for individuals in the HE group compared to the LE group. The HE group reported being significantly more adherent to health and safety recommendations than the LE group. Conclusions: Empathic concern for others is important for promoting college student prosocial behavior but is associated with anxiety and depression symptomatology during times of traumatic stress.

Concepts Keywords
College College students
Depressive COVID-19
High depression
Hospitalizations empathic concern
generalized anxiety
perceived stress


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease VO time

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