Which Are The Most Empathetic Countries In The World?

Recent research evaluated the empathy levels of countries across the world. Ecuador tops the ranks, but where does South Africa fit in?

Have you ever stopped to think about how empathetic you are? When it comes to having feelings of connectedness to those less fortunate than you, for example, would you rank yourself highly, or with room for improvement? A recent global survey asked people across world to consider just that, in an effort to rank countries from the most to the least empathetic. The results showed that Ecuador came out tops, while Lithuania got the unfortunate ‘least empathetic’ label. As for South Africa? We show up at 52 – out of 63.

The research, lead by Michigan State University’s assistant professor of psychology, William Chopik, gave online surveys to 104, 365 adults from various countries. The questions asked about their empathy levels and ability to connect with others. Other questions covered traits linked to empathy levels, such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, self-esteem and prosocial behaviour. And participants answered questions, such as, “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me,” and “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective,” according to a scale of 1 (“doesn’t describe me well”) to 5 (“describes me very well”).

Of course, there are a few caveats to the research, which was published online in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. For starters, countries with fewer than 20 respondents were excluded from the results, and about 75% of respondents were from the United States. Questions were also asked in English, which may have lead to a misrepresentation of subtle variations of empathy within various cultures. Still, the top 10 most empathetic countries were Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Denmark, United Arad Emirates, South Korea, the United States, Taiwan, Costa Rica and Kuwait. Australia came in at 45 while the UK came in at 47. Interestingly, three of the most empathetic countries were in the Middle East, which is commonly associated with aggression and unrest. While seven of the least empathetic countries found their home in Eastern Europe. See a full list of the rankings here. “Because this new worldwide study is simply a snapshot in time, it’s likely that each country has fluctuating levels of empathy depending on the year,” Chopik told LiveScience.

South Africa’s empathetic rating crept in at 52 out of 63 countries, just above Russia, leaving much room for improvement. Empathy is important in developing countries, especially for those in positions of power, because it can result in a deeper understanding of social challenges – and how to fix them. Philanthropic projects such as The Sun International CEO SleepOut and its affiliated Satellite events, The Sympathy and School SleepOuts, created by The Philanthropic Collection, pioneer the important idea of increasing empathy, along with raising funds. The CEO SleepOut sees business leaders spend a winter’s night on the streets, while raising funds to end homelessness, and the Satellite events see companies and schools spend a night outdoors in solidarity, while collecting items for communities in need.

The effect of participating certainly shows an increase in empathy. Research conduced by IQ Business after the 2015 702 Sun International CEO SleepOut measured the Social Return on Investment (SROI), which assessed the social value created by the Event. During stakeholder engagement, one of the questions that the CEOs were asked was: “To what extent did your participation in The CEO SleepOut change your level of empathy?” 89% of responses indicated that their levels of empathy had changed significantly, as a result of participating, and that it would affect their decision making going forward.

“Of course, there is no way that spending one night on the streets will allow someone to truly understand what it’s like to be homeless – we don’t claim that. But, the event does allow participants to consider the effects of homelessness for a little longer than they may have before, and experience even a small amount of discomfort that may spark a change in their hearts. You don’t have to live as a vulnerable person in order to want to help them – but it does help to gain a little more understanding,” says Ali Gregg, Founder and CEO of The CEO SleepOut. Consider your own levels of empathy – and then work out if you could try a little harder to connect with, or feel tenderness towards, people who are less fortunate than you. Let’s work together to raise our empathy ranking for next year.

– By The Philanthropic Collection –


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