Send to

Choose Destination
Ann Fam Med. 2019 Jul;17(4):311-318. doi: 10.1370/afm.2421.

Association Between Primary Care Practitioner Empathy and Risk of Cardiovascular Events and All-Cause Mortality Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study.

Author information

Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.
MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.



To examine the association between primary care practitioner (physician and nurse) empathy and incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and all-cause mortality among patients with type 2 diabetes.


This was a population-based prospective cohort study of 49 general practices in East Anglia (United Kingdom). The study population included 867 individuals with screen-detected type 2 diabetes who were followed up for an average of 10 years until December 31, 2014 in the Anglo-Danish-Dutch Study of Intensive Treatment in People With Screen Detected Diabetes in Primary Care (ADDITION)-Cambridge trial. Twelve months after diagnosis, patients assessed practitioner empathy and their experiences of diabetes care during the preceding year using the consultation and relational empathy (CARE) measure questionnaire. CARE scores were grouped into tertiles. The main outcome measures were first recorded CVD event (a composite of myocardial infarction, revascularization, nontraumatic amputation, stroke, and fatal CVD event) and all-cause mortality, obtained from electronic searches of the general practitioner record, national registries, and hospital records. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated using Cox models adjusted for relevant confounders. The ADDITION-Cambridge trial is registered as ISRCTN86769081.


Of the 628 participants with a completed CARE score, 120 (19%) experienced a CVD event, and 132 (21%) died during follow up. In the multivariable model, compared with the lowest tertile, higher empathy scores were associated with a lower risk of CVD events (although this did not achieve statistical significance) and a lower risk of all-cause mortality (HRs for the middle and highest tertiles, respectively: 0.49; 95% CI, 0.27-0.88, P = .01 and 0.60; 95% CI, 0.35-1.04, P = .05).


Positive patient experiences of practitioner empathy in the year after diagnosis of type 2 diabetes may be associated with beneficial long-term clinical outcomes. Further work is needed to understand which aspects of patient perceptions of empathy might influence health outcomes and how to incorporate this understanding into the education and training of practitioners.


diabetes; empathy; mortality

Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center