Empathy ability is impaired in alcohol-dependent patients

Giovanni Martinotti, Marco Di Nicola, Daniela Tedeschi, S Cundari, Luigi Janiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Citations (Scopus)


Empathy is a complex form of psychological inference in which observation, memory, knowledge and reasoning are combined to yield insights into the thoughts and feelings of others. The aim of this study was to evaluate the level of empathy in a sample of alcohol-dependent patients in comparison to a control sample. One hundred and fifty alcohol-dependent subjects were consecutively recruited. All of the subjects successfully detoxified have been evaluated with the Empathy Quotient (EQ) and then compared with 107 control subjects. The level of empathy was significantly lower in the group of alcohol-dependent subjects than in the control sample (p <.001). Differences with respect to gender and psychiatric comorbidity have also been observed. A low level of empathy could be a psychological trait typically observed in pre-morbid alcoholic personalities. Further, the lack of empathy could lead latent abusers to find in the alcohol misuse something enabling them to compensate for their intrinsic weakness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-161
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Alcohol Dependence
  • Comorbidity
  • Empathy
  • Gender
  • Personality


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