High levels of compassion can protect against work stress and sleep difficulties

High levels of compassion have been found to be linked to several well-being factors. Among other things, it may predict higher perceived rewards at work and protect against straining job characteristics and sleep problems.

Compassion refers to the tendency to perceive the suffering of others and the desire to alleviate it. Suffering can be small and mundane or a major life change. In her doctoral thesis, Iina Tolonen, Master of Science, studied compassion as a personality trait and its links to factors that reflect well-being.

The study investigated the relationship between compassion and well-being in young and middle-aged adults. The results showed that high levels of compassion can be beneficial for perceived job characteristics, sleep, and body composition.

"High levels of compassion were associated with lower perceived sleep deficiency and some measures of body composition, such as lower waist circumference, lower body fat percentage and lower body fat mass index," says Tolonen. However, it is not yet possible to draw any firm conclusions about possible causal links.

Compassion can also be increased. “It has been investigated, for example, that relatively short mindfulness-based compassion interventions may help cultivating compassion. It may be that people with mild job strain or sleep problems could benefit from an increase in compassion. However, further research is needed to confirm this claim."

The dissertation examined the association between compassion and job characteristics and sleep difficulties using over 11 years of follow-up data. Questionnaire data were from the Young Finns Study and the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986.

The dissertation was written in the context of the Compassion project led by Professor Mirka Hintsanen, Professor of Psychology. The dissertation has been funded by the University of Oulu Scholarship Foundation, the Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, the Signe och Ane Gyllenbergs Stiftelse and the University of Oulu Graduate School. The sub-studies of the dissertation have been published in the peer-reviewed journals, including Frontiers in Psychology (work traits), Brain and Behavior (sleep) and Psychology & Health (body composition).

Last updated: 13.5.2024