Compassionate doctors prolong your life
3 May 2016
People who are treated with compassion trust their doctors and are more likely to live longer than other people.
They are also more likely to follow their doctor’s advice, take their medication and adopt healthy lifestyles. And they are less likely than other people to need pain relief and hospital care following surgery, says anaesthetist Dr Robin Youngson, co-founder of the organisation Hearts in Healthcare.
Speaking at an anaesthetists' conference in Auckland, he said a Harvard University study had shown that, for people at risk of heart attack or stroke, having an empathetic doctor was better for their health than stopping smoking.
Another study had shown that people with lung cancer live 30 per cent longer if they have an empathetic doctor compared with people whose doctor is not empathetic.
Dr Youngson said there was a widespread belief in the medical profession that doctors who get close to patients are at risk of burn-out.
“But the research doesn’t support that,” he says. In fact, the opposite is true.
Dr Youngson says medical training needs to change and teach students the skills they need to conduct empathetic consultations: “The research says medical students come to medical school with high ideals but that medical training is brutalising. There is good evidence that doctors’ empathy decreases during medical school.”