Showing empathy to your partner or spouse suffering from chronic pain or with osteoarthritis may improve his or her physical functioning over time, a new study has showed. The results showed that patients with spouses who responded to their expressions of pain with empathic behaviours such as providing emotional support, affection, and attention on a daily basis showed improved physical function six and 18 months later relative to patients with less empathic spouses.
“We found that osteoarthritis patients whose spouses were more empathically responsive in daily interactions fared better in terms of their physical function than patients whose spouses were less responsive,” said lead author Stephanie J. Wilson from the Ohio state in the US.
Further, they were also better able to stand from a chair unassisted, maintained better balance and could walk more quickly. On the other hand, partners whose spouses acted frustrated and appeared irritated (punishing behaviours) would show diminished functioning over time, the researchers stated in the journal Psychological Science.
“Other research suggests that people who perform better on these tasks also are more likely to remain independent and to live longer,” Wilson explained, adding: “Thus, our findings have direct clinical implications for chronic pain patients.”
For the study, the team included a total of 152 osteoarthritis patients — all of whom were over 50 years old and married or living with a partner.