Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have recently published findings that suggest empathy, provided by your physician, may be the fastest way for you to get over the nagging cold that has been plaguing you for the past week, above and beyond the benefits of taking cold medicines, vitamins, and other common remedies. In their study, participants were divided into three experimental groups, which manipulated the amount of attention they received from their doctor and ranged from having no interaction at all to the physician asking lots of relevant questions about the participants’ symptoms, providing detailed information, and displaying genuine compassion to the patient. The participants then rated their physician along several dimensions, including perceived interest in their problem, helpfulness, compassion, empathy, and concern.
The researchers found that participants who had rated their doctors highly across all of these dimensions recovered from their colds a full one day earlier than other participants who had no scored their physicians as highly. Furthermore, by measuring the number of immune cells found in the secretions of participants’ nasal washes, they determined that participants that gave perfects scores to their physicians on this questionnaire had developed immunity to their cold 48 hours sooner than their counterparts who gave their doctors lower scores. Most importantly, however, is that the key finding from this study is that it was only when participants perceived their doctors as being compassionate and empathetic did they harness the rewards of a faster recovery from their cold.