People tend to think of massage therapists, in general, as empathetic. According to a new study of more than 75,000 adults, middle-aged women—which is the demographic in which most massage therapists fit—are more empathic than men of the same age and than younger or older people.
However, middle-aged men are also more empathetic than younger people.
“Overall, late middle-aged adults were higher in both of the aspects of empathy that we measured,” says The University of Michigan’s Sara Konrath, co-author of an article on age and empathy forthcoming in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological and Social Sciences.
“They reported that they were more likely to react emotionally to the experiences of others, and they were also more likely to try to understand how things looked from the perspective of others.”
“Given the fundamental role of empathy in everyday social life and its relationship to many important social activities such as volunteering and donating to charities, it’s important to learn as much as we can about what factors increase and decrease empathic responding,” says Konrath.
Earlier research by O’Brien, Konrath and colleagues found declines in empathy and higher levels of narcissism among young people today as compared to earlier generations of young adults.