Improvements in Compassion and Fears of Compassion throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Multinational Study

Marcela Matos, Kirsten McEwan, Martin Kanovský, Júlia Halamová, Stanley R. Steindl, Nuno Ferreira, Mariana Linharelhos, Daniel Rijo, Kenichi Asano, Sara P. Vilas, Margarita G. Márquez, Sónia Gregório, Gonzalo Brito-Pons, Paola Lucena-Santos, Margareth da Silva Oliveira, Erika Leonardo de Souza, Lorena Llobenes, Natali Gumiy, Maria Ileana Costa, Noor HabibReham Hakem, Hussain Khrad, Ahmad Alzahrani, Simone Cheli, Nicola Petrocchi, Elli Tholouli, Philia Issari, Gregoris Simos, Vibeke Lunding-Gregersen, Ask Elklit, Russell Kolts, Allison C. Kelly, Catherine Bortolon, Pascal Delamillieure, Marine Paucsik, Julia E. Wahl, Mariusz Zieba, Mateusz Zatorski, Tomasz Komendziński, Shuge Zhang, Jaskaran Basran, Antonios Kagialis, James Kirby, Paul Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During large-scale disasters, social support, caring behaviours, and compassion are shown to protect against poor mental health outcomes. This multi-national study aimed to assess the fluctuations in compassion over time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents (Time 1 n = 4156, Time 2 n = 980, Time 3 n = 825) from 23 countries completed online self-report questionnaires measuring the flows of compassion (i.e., Compassionate Engagement and Action Scales) and fears of compassion toward self and others and from others (i.e., Fears of Compassion Scales) and mental health at three time-points during a 10-month period. The results for the flows of compassion showed that self-compassion increased at Time 3. Compassion for others increased at Time 2 and 3 for the general population, but in contrast, it decreased in health professionals, possibly linked to burnout. Compassion from others did not change in Time 2, but it did increase significantly in Time 3. For fears of compassion, fears of self-compassion reduced over time, fears of compassion for others showed more variation, reducing for the general public but increasing for health professionals, whilst fears of compassion from others did not change over time. Health professionals, those with compassion training, older adults, and women showed greater flows of compassion and lower fears of compassion compared with the general population, those without compassion training, younger adults, and men. These findings highlight that, in a period of shared suffering, people from multiple countries and nationalities show a cumulative improvement in compassion and reduction in fears of compassion, suggesting that, when there is intense suffering, people become more compassionate to self and others and less afraid of, and resistant to, compassion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1845
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • compassion
  • COVID-19
  • fears of compassion
  • longitudinal
  • multilevel modelling
  • multinational study
  • pandemic


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