University of Oulu

Aino Saarinen, Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, C. Robert Cloninger, Juha Veijola, Marko Elovainio, Terho Lehtimäki, Olli Raitakari, Mirka Hintsanen, The relationship of dispositional compassion for others with depressive symptoms over a 15-year prospective follow-up, Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 250, 2019, Pages 354-362, ISSN 0165-0327,

The relationship of dispositional compassion for others with depressive symptoms over a 15-year prospective follow-up

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Author: Saarinen, Aino1,2; Keltikangas-Järvinen, Liisa2; Cloninger, C. Robert3;
Organizations: 1Research Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu, Finland
2Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Psychiatry, Washington University, St. Louis, United States
4Department of Psychiatry, Research Unit of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland; Medical Research Center Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
6Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories and Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
7Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Finland
8Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-03-24


Background: The aim of this study was to investigate (i) the direction of the relationships between dispositional compassion for others and depressive symptoms over a 15-year follow-up in adulthood and (ii) the longitudinal associations of dispositional compassion with total depressive symptoms and various depressive subsymptoms (i.e. negative attitude, performance difficulties, and somatic complaints) from early adulthood to middle age.

Methods: The participants (N = 1676) came from the prospective Young Finns Study. Dispositional compassion was assessed with the Temperament and Character Inventory and depressive symptoms with a modified version of the Beck Depression Inventory. The measurements were conducted between 1997−2012 including three measurement points. The data was analyzed using structural equation models and multilevel models for longitudinal design.

Results: The predictive relationships were more likely to proceed from high dispositional compassion for others to lower depressive symptoms than in the opposite direction. Additionally, high dispositional compassion predicted a lower total score of depressive symptoms and also lower scores of various depressive subsymptoms (negative attitude, performance difficulties, somatic complaints) in early adulthood. These associations, however, weakened over years and became non-significant in middle age. All the findings were sustained after controlling for age, gender, and socioeconomic factors in childhood and adulthood.

Limitations: Depressive symptoms were mostly mild and non-clinical in our sample. The findings cannot be directly generalized to severe depressive symptomatology.

Conclusions: When tailoring psychiatric interventions, it is necessary to be aware that compassion for others may lower the risk for the onset and maintenance of depressive symptoms, especially in early adulthood.

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Series: Journal of affective disorders
ISSN: 0165-0327
ISSN-E: 1573-2517
ISSN-L: 0165-0327
Volume: 250
Pages: 354 - 362
DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.03.029
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Funding: This study was supported financially by the Academy of Finland (M.H., grant number 308676). The Young Finns Study has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland: grants 286284, 134309 (Eye), 126925, 121584, 124282, 129378 (Salve), 117787 (Gendi), and 41071 (Skidi); the Social Insurance Institution of Finland; Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility area of Kuopio, Tampere and Turku University Hospitals (grant X51001); Juho Vainio Foundation; Paavo Nurmi Foundation; Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research; Finnish Cultural Foundation; The Sigrid Juselius Foundation; Tampere Tuberculosis Foundation; Emil Aaltonen Foundation; Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation; Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation (T.L); Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association; and EU Horizon 2020 (grant 755320 for TAXINOMISIS); and European Research Council (grant 742927 for MULTIEPIGEN project); Tampere University Hospital Supporting Foundation.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 308676
Detailed Information: 308676 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2019. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license