University of Oulu

Saarinen, A., Keltikangas-Järvinen, L., Viding, E. et al. Compassion protects against vital exhaustion and negative emotionality. Motiv Emot 45, 506–517 (2021).

Compassion protects against vital exhaustion and negative emotionality

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Author: Saarinen, Aino1,2; Keltikangas-Järvinen, Liisa2; Viding, Essi3;
Organizations: 1Research Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London, UK
4Cicero Learning, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
5Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories, and Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center, Tampere, Finland
6Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
7Centre for Population Health Research, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
8Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
9Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-09-02


We investigated (i) the predictive relationships of compassion with negative emotionality (a marker of susceptibility to stress) and vital exhaustion (a marker of chronic stress response) and (ii) the effect of compassion on the developmental courses of negative emotionality and vital exhaustion over a follow-up from early adulthood to middle age. We used the prospective Young Finns data (n = 1031–1495, aged 20–50). Compassion was evaluated in 1997, 2001, and 2012; and vital exhaustion and negative emotionality in 2001, 2007, and 2012. The predictive paths from compassion to vital exhaustion and negative emotionality were stronger than vice versa: high compassion predicted lower vital exhaustion and lower negative emotionality. The effect of high compassion on lower vital exhaustion and lower negative emotionality was evident from early adulthood to middle age. Overall, high compassion appears to protect against dimensions of stress from early adulthood to middle age, whereas this study found no evidence that dimensions of stress could reduce disposition to feel compassion for others’ distress over a long-term follow-up.

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Series: Motivation and emotion
ISSN: 0146-7239
ISSN-E: 1573-6644
ISSN-L: 0146-7239
Volume: 45
Issue: 4
Pages: 506 - 517
DOI: 10.1007/s11031-021-09878-2
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Helsinki including Helsinki University Central Hospital.. 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 322098, 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; Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association; EU Horizon 2020 (Grant 755320 for TAXINOMISIS and Grant 848146 for To Aition); European Research Council (Grant 742927 for MULTIEPIGEN project); Tampere University Hospital Supporting Foundation and Finnish Society of Clinical Chemistry.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 308676
Detailed Information: 308676 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
322098 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit