Older adults’ empathy and daily support exchanges

Older adults' empathy may shape the frequency and types of support that they exchange with their social partners as well as the implications of these exchanges. This study drew on the Daily Experiences and Well-being Study, which included adults aged 65 and over and tracked them across 5-6 days using mobile phone surveys. Participants (n = 293) rated their empathy and reported their daily support exchanges (e.g., emotional support, instrumental support, advice) as well as mood. Findings showed that more empathic older adults provided each type of support more often. They also received more emotional support than less empathic older adults. Moreover, older adults' empathy moderated the associations between providing support and their daily mood. More empathic older adults maintained their mood regardless of whether they provided support. By contrast, less empathic older adults reported reduced positive mood on days when they provided emotional support and increased positive mood when they provided instrumental support. Greater empathy is associated with more frequent support exchanges; however, more empathic older adults appear immune to such exchanges in terms of their mood. Interestingly, less empathic older adults may find providing emotional support draining but instrumental support rewarding, probably because they are less equipped to cope with others' emotions.