Caring helps: Trait empathy is related to better coping strategies and differs in the poor versus the rich

Rui Sun, Laura Vuillier, Bryant P.H. Hui, Aleksandr Kogan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Coping has been extensively studied in health psychology; however, factors influencing the usage of different coping strategies have received limited attention. In five studies (N = 3702), we explored the relationship between trait empathy and coping strategies, and how subjective socioeconomic status (SES) moderates this relationship. In Studies 1–4, we found that people with higher level of empathic concern use more adaptive coping strategies, seek more social support, and use fewer maladaptive coping strategies. Moreover, higher trait empathy related to more adaptive coping strategies among the poor, and fewer maladaptive coping strategies among the rich. In Study 5, we tested the potential biological basis of the relationship between trait empathy and coping by examining the effect of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) rs53576 polymorphism on coping. We found that individuals with the GG phenotype—who in previous research have been found to be more empathic—were more likely to seek social support than AG or AA individuals. Furthermore, in line with findings in Studies 1–4, amongst people with low SES, individuals with GG genotype used more adaptive coping strategies than AG or AA individuals. Our results highlight the selective role trait empathy plays in influencing coping strategy deployment, depending on the SES of individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0213142
Number of pages29
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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