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International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 1258–1266 | Cite as

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 InagakiEmail author
Research Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Empathy Hospital pharmacist Japan Pharmaceutical care 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Okayama Society of Hospital Pharmacists for study participation, and all the participants. The authors thank Akio Wakabayashi for permission to use the Japanese AQ. The authors express their gratitude for the enormous help of Shoko Yoshimoto for fund management and Yifei Tang and Kyoko Hageshita for excellent data management.

Funding

This study was supported by the Research for Promotion of Cancer Control Programmes (H26-Gan Seisaku-ippan-002 and H25-Seishin-ippan-001) Health and Labour Sciences Research Grants from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Copyright information

© Koninklijke Nederlandse Maatschappij ter bevordering der Pharmacie 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuji Higuchi
    • 1
  • Yosuke Uchitomi
    • 2
  • Maiko Fujimori
    • 3
  • Toshihiro Koyama
    • 4
  • Hitomi Kataoka
    • 5
  • Yoshihisa Kitamura
    • 4
  • Toshiaki Sendo
    • 4
  • Masatoshi Inagaki
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of NeuropsychiatryOkayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical SciencesOkayamaJapan
  2. 2.Innovation Center for Supportive, Palliative and Psychosocial CareNational Cancer Center TokyoJapan
  3. 3.Center for Suicide Prevention, National Institute of Mental HealthNational Center for Neurology and PsychiatryKodaira, TokyoJapan
  4. 4.Department of Clinical PharmacyOkayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical SciencesOkayamaJapan
  5. 5.Department of Primary Care and Medical EducationOkayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical SciencesOkayamaJapan
  6. 6.Department of NeuropsychiatryOkayama University HospitalKita-ku, OkayamaJapan

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