Compassion and COVID-19 Pandemic

pandemic covid-19

The last paper of series on the role of compassion during the COVID-19 pandemic has been realeased. The new rsearch suggests that, in a time of elevated distress and shared human suffering such as the pandemic, people from multiple countries and nationalities seem to become more compassionate to self and others and less afraid of, and resistant to, compassion.

During pandemic I joined an international team led by Marcela Matos aimed to explore the role of compassion in adjusting to pandemic. 21 countries were involved and 4 waves of data were collected. First, we showed how all fears of compassion moderated (heightened) the impact of perceived threat of COVID-19 on psychological distress. Second, we confirmed how social connection is key to how people adapt and cope with the worldwide COVID-19 crisis and may facilitate post-traumatic growth in the context of the threat experienced during the pandemic. Finally, our findings highlight the universal protective role of compassion, in particular self-compassion and compas- sion from others, in promoting resilience by buffering against the harmful effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and social safeness.

The Italian team was led by Nicola Petrocchi and I, and supported by Tages Onlus.

Matos, M., McEwan, K., Kanovský, M., Halamová, J., Steindl, S. R., Ferreira, N., Linharelhos, M., Rijo D, Asano K, Vilas SP, Márquez MG, Gregório S, Brito-Pons G, Lucena-Santos P, da Silva Oliveira M, de Souza EL, Llobenes L, Gumiy N, Costa MI, Habib N, Hakem R, Khrad H, Alzahrani A, Cheli S, Petrocchi N, Tholouli E, Issari P, Simos G, Lunding-Gregersen V, Elklit A, Kolts R, Kelly AC, Bortolon C, Delamillieure P, Paucsik M, Wahl JE, Zieba M, Zatorski M, Komendziński T, Zhang S, Basran J, Kagialis A, Kirby J, Gilbert P. (2023). Improvements in Compassion and Fears of Compassion throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Multinational Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health20(3), 1845. MDPI AG. Retrieved from

The role of externalizing traits in vaccine hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy

Clinical Neuropsychiatry has published a paper about an action-research we run during the COVID-19 pandemic about vaccine hesitancy. The main research question was: How we can reduce the hesitancy or even refusal of anti-COVID-19 vaccine in cancer patients? Indeed, cancer patients were and are considered persons at risk for severe manifestation of SARS-CoV-2.

Preliminarily, we conducted a qualitative study thorugh focus groups. We were exploring those factors that may fuel an hesitant attitude. Then, we tested it in a large sample of cancer patients during the Italian vaccination campaign. Finally, we outline a communication strategy based on collected results.

In short, we found that the higher the externalizing traits (antagonism + disinibhition) the higher the association between risk perception and vaccine hesitancy. That is, persons with externalizing traits were at increased risk of a paradoxical response. Once they perceived a higher risk of being infected they reacted by being dubious or even suspicious about vaccination.

Therefore, the communication aimed to reduced the distress associated with this risk perception rather than disbuting the contents about vaccine safety. Our strategy led to a very low rate of cancer patients refusin vaccine. The study was run at the Florence Department of Oncology.

Cheli, S., Pino, M. S., Goldzweig, G., Scoccianti, S., Fabbroni, V., Giordano, C., Cavalletti, V., Bassetti, A., & Fioretto, L. (2022). The Relationship Between Covid-19 Risk Perception and Vaccine Hesitancy in Cancer Patients: The Moderating Role of Externalizing Traits. Clinical neuropsychiatry19(6), 355–364.