Impact of catechol-O-methyltransferase genetic polymorphisms and age on empathy

Jing Hao Hsu, Chun Hsiang Tan, Rwei Ling Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A new concept of empathy was adopted in this study to elucidate the relationship between empathy and age and eight catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene polymorphisms. One hundred and eighty-two participants were genotyped on eight COMT loci. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test (RMET) measured the participants' empathy. Group comparison, correlation, and regression analyses were conducted. After adjusting α by the Bonferroni method (p =.00125), there was no difference in any empathy index on 8 COMT variants. Still, middle-aged with the AA allele at rs165599 and rs165655 had higher personal distress than those with the GA allele after controlling for the sex variable. The rs6267 with more G allele could predict higher cognitive empathy (β =.222, p =.003). After controlling for education, the RMET performance of older adults was worse than that of younger adults (p <.01). Moreover, being female predicted higher personal distress (β = -.239, p =.001) and affective empathy (β = -.247, p =.001), and higher education level predicted better results in RMET (β =.344, p <.001). People with various genotypes in specific age groups showed significant differences in particular empathy indicators. Age and education can shape an individual’s empathy together with innate factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23059-23068
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Sept

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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