Exploring autistic-like traits relating to empathic attitude and psychological distress in hospital pharmacists

Yuji Higuchi, Yosuke Uchitomi, Maiko Fujimori, Toshihiro Koyama, Hitomi Kataoka, Yoshihisa Kitamura, Toshiaki Sendo, Masatoshi Inagaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background Pharmacists are expected to play a key role in modern cancer care. Research suggests that an empathic approach and attitude in medical staff improves the quality of patient care. An empathic attitude and psychological distress are thought to be associated with autistic-like traits, but little is known about such traits. Objective In this study, we aimed to clarify the associations among autistic-like traits, empathic attitude in a medical context, and psychological health in hospital pharmacists. Setting Eligibility criteria for inclusion were certified pharmacists working at hospitals for patient care who returned their questionnaires. Method Eight hundred and twenty-three hospital pharmacists completed a number of self-administered questionnaires anonymously by mail. Main outcome measures Scores were obtained on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, the Jefferson Scale of Empathy, the General Health Questionnaire-12, and subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Perspective Taking, IRI-Empathic Concern, IRIPersonal Distress). We performed correlation and mediation analyses to confirm that the empathy and general health questionnaires were associated with autism-spectrum quotient scores, and with each IRI subscale. Results Complete responses were obtained from 379 pharmacists comprising 151 males (39.8 %) with a mean age of 37.7 ± 10.8 years (missing data, n = 13) and a median of 11 years after qualification as a pharmacist. Autism-Spectrum Quotient scores were inversely correlated with empathy (r = −0.22, p < 0.001) and positively correlated with general health scores (r = 0.40, p < 0.001). In the models with mediation, the inverse correlation between autism-spectrum quotient and empathy scores was mediated indirectly by IRI-Perspective Taking and IRI-Empathic Concern, and the positive correlation between autism-spectrum quotient and general health was mediated indirectly by IRI-Personal Distress. There were also direct effects, with significant effects of autism-spectrum quotient on empathy and general health scores. Conclusion Our findings suggest that autistic-like traits affect both empathic attitude in a medical context and the psychological health of pharmacists. We recommend that to improve empathy in those with high levels of autistic-like traits, we may need to develop specialized interventions, such as improving communication skills training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1258-1266
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Pharmacy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Empathy
  • Hospital pharmacist
  • Japan
  • Pharmaceutical care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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