The relationship between empathy and stress: a cross-sectional study among undergraduate medical students

James Wiguna Wahjudi, Ardi Findyartini, Fransiska Kaligis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: Empathy is critical for medical doctors, as it enables them to conduct good patient-centred care. Medical students are expected to learn this ability as part of their education and training. METHODS: Using a cross-sectional design, the present study was conducted to identify whether the empathy levels of medical students are affected by their stress levels. A translated version of the Perceived Stress Scale-10 was used to measure the students' stress levels, while the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy was used to measure their empathy levels. RESULTS: A total of 464 students from one medical school in Indonesia participated in the study. Stress levels among medical students peak in their first year of study and maintain a downward trend over the following years. The students' empathy levels increased during their first 3 years, declined significantly upon entering the first clinical year, and increased during the second clinical year. However, no correlations were found between stress level and empathy level. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that there may be other underlying factors that contribute to empathy decline among medical students upon entering their first clinical year. Further research should be conducted to identify these factors. The bounced-back of empathy level to a higher level in the second year highlights the importance of student adaptation in the clinical learning environment and the support system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalKorean journal of medical education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Empathy
  • Medical students
  • Stress
  • Undergraduate


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