Ecuador is the most empathetic country in the world, according to a study published online in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology on Friday, October 14.
Among the top 10 countries in the rank are Saudi Arabia (2), Peru (3), Denmark (4), United Arab Emirates (5), Korea (6), United States (7), Taiwan (8), Costa Rica (9), and Kuwait (10).
Considered first-of-its-kind, the study ranked 63 countries by empathy through an online survey of over 104,000 people worldwide.
The researchers excluded nations with small sample sizes, such as most countries in Africa.
They measured the compassion of people for others as well as their tendency in imagining the point of view of others.
While the top 7th finish of the US isn’t bad as it seems, study’s lead author noted the changing psychological states of Americans in current decades, which led to greater focus on the individual and less on other people.
“These changes might ultimately cause us to leave our close relationships behind,” William Chopik, also the assistant professor of psychology in Michigan State University, said in a statement. “People are struggling more than ever to form meaningful close relationships. So, sure, the United States is seventh on the list, but we could see that position rise or fall depending on how our society changes in the next 20-50 years.”
He expressed surprise, however, that three Middle Eastern nations—Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia—got high rankings, considering their long history of wars and aggression with other nations in the said region.
Reason for this could be with the study not having distinguished between feeling empathy toward people in one’s own country against people in other countries.
Meanwhile, Lithuania is the least empathetic country.
Of the 10 least empathetic countries, seven were from the Eastern Europe, researchers said.
While the study “only grabbed a snapshot of what empathy looks like at this very moment,” cultures are changing constantly, noted Chopik.
“This is particularly true of the United States, which has experienced really large changes in things like parenting practices and values,” he said. “People may portray the United States as this empathetic and generous giant, but that might be changing.”
In 2011, Chopik’s co-authors Sara Konrath from Indiana University and Ed O’ Brien from the University of Chicago also published a research signifying how college students in the US had become less empathetic in a two-decade span.
They identified potential factors such as social media explosion, escalation of bullying and violence, changing family and parenting practices, as well as growing expectations of success.