'Is it the schism of Brexit or the cranked up vitriol that flows through parts of social media? Either way, people in the UK are concerned that empathy is on the wane, with more than half of the population believing Britons’ ability to sense, understand and share the feelings of others has declined over the last year.
Only 12% of people said they had noticed an increase in the ability of people to put themselves in others’ shoes, according to a study by YouGov, while 51% said there was less empathy towards others.
It amounts to “an emerging crisis of empathy”, according to the Scout movement, which commissioned the research. Bear Grylls, the explorer, TV presenter and chief scout, has warned that if the trend continues “we risk more division in our communities and increasing alienation among young people”.
The findings follow research by Cambridge University that found empathy is a largely learned trait, although it can be passed on genetically in a minority of cases.
But they come amid other indications of rising solidarity, at least among some groups. Support for increased taxes to spend more on health, education and social benefits is at its highest since 2002, according to the survey of social attitudes in Britain by the NatCen centre for social research.
Two-thirds of Labour supporters want increased taxation and for the first time in 15 years, a majority of Conservative supporters (53%) also say the same. 54% also said people can almost always or usually be trusted, representing an increase in reported rates of trust.
But there are splits in British society along generational lines about how much others need help and on issues such as climate change.'
Read more: Increasing number of Britons think empathy is on the wane
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