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Middle-aged women are most empathetic, study says


A new study has found that middle-aged women tend to have the most empathy. Older and younger people were the least empathetic.


Chip Somodevilla

Middle-aged women tend to have the most empathy.

That's according to researchers at the University of Michigan, which found that the older women become, the more empathy they have, finally declining in old age.

The study looked at 75,000 men and women from three separate studies.

They found an inverted "U" shape in empathy, with younger and elderly people having less empathy and those in their middle ages having the most.

"Overall, late middle-aged adults were higher in both of the aspects of empathy that we measured," said study co-author Sara Konrath, reported University of Michigan news service.

"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."

Study authors suspect that increasing cognitive abilities and emotional functioning peaks at middle age and then declines, said the Telegraph.

Yet, they concede that it is not particularly clear if this has everything to do with age or whether it is generational.

It could be that those currently in middle age grew up during a period that stressed emotional awareness and understanding.

Psychologists also said that the gender aspect of the results were significant.

"This research may help to explain the predominance of women in the helping professions," said psychologist Abigael San who was not affiliated with the study, according to the British Psychological Society.  

The research will be published in the Journals of Gerontology.