Study shows that acetominophen can reduce empathy for others

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I don't know what to think about it. I heard it on the news and from OSU that a study was done on the effects of acetominophen (Tylenol). People taking the drug were found to be less sensitive to other people's physical and psychological pain. Hmm. I wonder if the study will hold up. I need to read the original paper on it.


My mother has taken Tylenol III for many years. She has zero empathy with me and little with others. Could the Tylenol be contributing to this? Interesting question for me.

9 Comments

Interesting.
Curious, and concerned, I looked up this study.

The first "test" involved 80 college students. The second one involved 114 college students. Empathy was determined through reading of stories, and through "noise blasts", and through an online game.

Unless I misread the article, things like dramatic footage of floods, earthquakes, explosions, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, etc. weren't involved. To me the "tests" make a big difference because empathy is more readily displayed during catastrophic events (just my humble opinion).

Reference was made to another study on the same issue in 2004. No sample size was given.

Jessie, I wouldn't worry too much just yet. The 80 and 114 participant studies aren't what I would consider a significant control group. First, it's just too small a sample. Second, they're ALL college students. There was no indication what their background was, whether they had lost any family members, suffered any serious injuries, had family in the military, done any caregiving. The only commonality was being a student.

My experience going to college was that the full time students weren't the most empathetic, but they were somewhat self absorbed. Obviously, that opinion wouldn't qualify as significant either.

It's an unsettling conclusion, though, but I think it needs to be supported by larger studies, and interaction with situations in which the possible empathy would be something typical of producing a reaction by people in a more varied group. It would be interesting if 2 groups of medical personnel were used for such a study, or a group of medical people and a group of nonmedical personnel, or a group of parents vs. nonparents.

Thanks for sharing this information though; it's definitely given me something to think about.


Interesting but I would be more worried about the prolonged use of Tylenol on the kidneys.
Most college students are young with little life experience still very self absorbed.
Agree the study needs to be repeated with a larger group and wider age range.

Jessie I think your mother was probably born without empathy from what you have posted so I would let her keep her T3!!!!!!!
Mother never takes pain killers of any kind and she has no empathy - it is the personality disorder. I think it is that for your mum too, Jessie. I agree that college students are not the best population for test subjects for this study. They are in a pretty self centered stage of life. Now if they found something that produced empathy in that group I would be more inclined to believe it.
I caught something on tv a while back regarding studies. There is a show called Last Week Tonight - the host is a guy named John Oliver and he is a comedian, but very smart. He did a bit on studies - how the media and the sponcering industries can tweek study results for sensation and/or profit - he made a ton of sense plus it was hilarious! Go to YouTube and search "John Oliver studies" or "John Oliver May 8th 2016". It's about 20 minutes long but very worthwhile to watch. It will make you think about "scientific" studies in a new light and I promise- you'll get a good laugh!
RM, if you've ever taken statistics, you'll see how results can be tweaked if not skewed. These pollsters who call for political opinions are good examples of that.
Well, actually the data never lie, only the way it is collected and interpreted. This study was over-interpreted by the media. It might be good for Tylenol, though. Many people would probably like to stop feeling so empathetic with others.
Jessebelle, Ever think that you have treated your mother so well that she got lazy and spoiled? I recall you being surprised that she did clean the livingroom once when you might have been needing a housekeeper. Maybe that could be her job?

Maybe you should try taking some Tylenol to test and see if it could make you feel less empathetic, less kind, less the caring daughter that you are? But, did the study find the effects were reversable-that part would be important!

Whenever I hear there is a S T U D Y , my first thoughts are: Who did the study and what did they want to prove; and, who paid for the study? In this case, it might have been a competitor like Advil-famous for making the patient kinder, ha ha, just kidding. I am very skeptical of clinical drug studies. I enjoy following up on interesting studies after they are published in journals, such as JAMA and others. The rebuttals by scientists and doctors shine a light on the conclusions which were reported in the study. Do a study-get paid-what a way to create a job.

You know, I had some tylenol just yesterday-and I guess I just don't care?

But, I do care that you are treated better!
Send you are absolutely correct about the value of "studies". My husband spent most of his career in drug developement and his first question would be "Was it published in a peer reviewed journal?"

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