Alexithymia and Empathy in a Non-Clinical Population: How do they Correlate?



How to Cite

Chakraborty, N., Mehmet, H., & Brugha, T. (2021). Alexithymia and Empathy in a Non-Clinical Population: How do they Correlate?. The Physician, 7(2), 1-8.


Alexithymia and empathy are functional concepts surrounding human emotions.This study aimed to estimate the association between alexithymia and empathy within a neurotypical population.

The study was a cross sectional survey conducted within a non-clinical population of medical students  at a University in England using voluntary sampling to  complete the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS), Basic Empathy Scale (BES), General Health Questionnaire- 12.  

Alexithymia and empathy scores did not show a statistically significant correlation. There was a statistically significant negative correlation between total alexithymia and cognitive empathy scores (correlation co-efficient was -0.184, p value was 0.013). Men and women differed significantly on empathy scores with women showing significantly higher empathy.

The relationship between the understanding of one’s own emotions and the interpretation of others’ emotions are different functions with a more complex interaction than a simple linear correlation. Future research should focus on further exploring the differences between cognitive and affective empathy.


Sifneos PE. The Prevalence of ‘Alexithymic’ Characteristics in Psychosomatic Patients. PPS 1973;22:255–62. doi:10.1159/000286529

Haviland MG, Warren WL, Riggs ML. An observer scale to measure alexithymia. Psychosomatics 2000;41:385–92. doi:10.1176/appi.psy.41.5.385

Taylor GJ, Bagby RM, Ryan DP, et al. Criterion validity of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale. Psychosom Med 1988;50:500–9. doi:10.1097/00006842-198809000-00006

de Vroege L, Emons WHM, Sijtsma K, et al. Psychometric Properties of the Bermond–Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire (BVAQ) in the General Population and a Clinical Population. Front Psychiatry 2018;9:111. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00111

Taylor GJ, Bagby RM, Parker JDA. Disorders of Affect Regulation: Alexithymia in Medical and Psychiatric Illness. Cambridge: : Cambridge University Press 1997. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511526831

Sifneos PE. Anxiety suppressive psychotherapy: Teaching to anticipate confusing situations. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 1967;15:63–63.

Ganczarek J, Hünefeldt T, Olivetti Belardinelli M. From “Einfühlung” to empathy: exploring the relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience. Cogn Process 2018;19:141–5. doi:10.1007/s10339-018-0861-x

Empathy and Judging Other’s Pain: An fMRI Study of Alexithymia | Cerebral Cortex | Oxford Academic. (accessed 1 Dec 2021).

Goleman D. Emotional Intelligence: 25th Anniversary Edition. 1st edition. Bloomsbury Publishing 2020.

Decety J. Empathy in Medicine: What It Is, and How Much We Really Need It. Am J Med 2020;133:561–6. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2019.12.012

Dissociation between cognitive and affective empathy in youth with Asperger Syndrome: European Journal of Developmental Psychology: Vol 12, No 1. (accessed 2 Dec 2021).

Toussaint L, Webb JR. Gender differences in the relationship between empathy and forgiveness. J Soc Psychol 2005;145:673–85. doi:10.3200/SOCP.145.6.673-686

Kauhanen J, Julkunen J, Salonen JT. Validity and reliability of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS) in a population study. J Psychosom Res 1992;36:687–94. doi:10.1016/0022-3999(92)90058-a

Jolliffe D, Farrington DP. Development and validation of the Basic Empathy Scale. J Adolesc 2006;29:589–611. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2005.08.010

GHQ - General Health Questionnaire. (accessed 2 Dec 2021).

Werneke U, Goldberg DP, Yalcin I, et al. The stability of the factor structure of the General Health Questionnaire. Psychol Med 2000;30:823–9. doi:10.1017/s0033291799002287

Kwak SK, Kim JH. Statistical data preparation: management of missing values and outliers. Korean J Anesthesiol 2017;70:407–11. doi:10.4097/kjae.2017.70.4.407

Trait Autism is a Better Predictor of Empathy than Alexithymia | SpringerLink. (accessed 2 Dec 2021).

Impairments in cognitive empathy and alexithymia occur independently of executive functioning in college students with autism - Tim Ziermans, Ymke de Bruijn, Renee Dijkhuis, Wouter Staal, Hanna Swaab, 2019. (accessed 2 Dec 2021).

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Array