Women Are More Empathetic Toward Their Partners than Men, Study Shows, But You Probably Already Knew That

It's always nice to have something you've already suspected confirmed by science. Like today, when I found out a recent study showed that women are more empathetic toward their partners than men. It's a little depressing, sure, but hey! Let's focus on the silver lining: now we have research to back us up next time we accuse a partner of not caring about our problems. Thanks, science!

The research was conducted through Griffith University and the University of Queensland, which are both located in Australia. Using data from the Household, Income, and Labor Dynamic in Australia (HILDA) survey, which has more than 20,000 participants every year, the scientists analyzed how individuals' emotional health changed when their partners went through difficult life experiences such as illness or a death in the family, Science Daily reports. When a partner experienced negative life events, women were significantly affected by their distress — in fact, on average, their levels of empathy were comparable to the event happening to themselves. However, the same couldn't be said of men, who were found to be unaffected by the emotional state of their partner. And it's not because men are stoic, unfeeling Clint Eastwood wannabes; according to researcher Dr. Cindy Mervin, they're "quite strongly affected by what happens to themselves, but they simply are not very emotional when it comes to the feelings of their partner."

Ouch. 
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Professor Paul Frijters went on to hypothesize that men might be more affected by the image they send to the world as partners than the actual emotional states of their girlfriend or wife. (The article doesn't say anything about homosexual relationships, by the way, so I think it's safe to assume this is restricted to heterosexuals.) There could be any number of reasons for this disconnect between men and their partners, but much more research would need to be done before anyone could comfortably say why men tend to be less empathetic. 

These results are similar to a 2010 study that found that men feel less guilt than women. Women generally have higher levels of habitual guilt than men, but in the same study, researchers also found that girls had better interpersonal sensitivity at younger ages than boys. This led them to suggest that rather than women feeling too much guilt, men didn't feel enough due to their lack of sensitivity. Gee whiz, I wonder how else that lack of empathy could manifest itself later in life!
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Maybe we should start a campaign to make guys read more books.

Image: Raul Liberwirth/Flickr, Giphy (2)

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