The Role of Empathy in Chinese Adolescents’ Preventive Health Behavior During COVID-19

Yang Qu*, Bin Bin Chen, Beiming Yang, Yuanfei Zhu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Preventive health behavior during COVID-19 protects not only oneself but also the welfare of others. However, little attention has been paid to prosocial motivation in adolescents, who are often viewed as selfish and egocentric. Therefore, the current study aimed to explore the role of empathy in adolescents’ preventive health behavior using longitudinal data. Methods: A total of 442 Chinese adolescents (mean age of youth = 13.35 years; 49.5% girls and 50.5% boys) completed two-wave longitudinal surveys over the span of two months during the pandemic (Time 1: July 2020; Time 2: September 2020). At T1, participants reported on their empathic concern, perspective taking, and concern for personal health. At both T1 and T2, participants reported on their preventive health behavior and COVID-related worry. Results: Adolescents who showed greater empathic concern tend to engage in more preventive health behavior over time (p <.01). However, greater empathic concern also predicted adolescents’ greater worry about COVID-19 over time (p <.01). In comparison, adolescents’ perspective-taking and concern for personal health did not predict their health behavior or worry over time. Notably, the longitudinal effect of empathic concern on preventive health behavior and COVID-related worry remained (ps <.05) after taking into account adolescents’ perspective-taking and concern for personal health. Conclusions: These findings highlight adolescents’ prosocial motivation in engaging in preventive health behavior during the pandemic and also point out the potential negative influence of empathic concern on adolescent mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-735
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Volume70
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2022

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • COVID-19
  • Empathy
  • Health behavior
  • Prosocial motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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