Factors related to medical students’ and doctors’ attitudes towards older patients: A systematic review

Samra, Rajvinder; Cox, Tom; Gordon, Adam L; Conroy, Simon; Lucassen, Mathijs and Griffiths, Amanda (2017). Factors related to medical students’ and doctors’ attitudes towards older patients: A systematic review. Age and Ageing, 46(6) pp. 911–919.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afx058


Studies have sought to identify the possible determinants of medical students’ and doctors’ attitudes towards older patients by examining relationships with a variety of factors: demographic; educational/training; exposure to older people; personality/cognitive; and job/career factors. This review collates and synthesises these findings.
An electronic search of ten databases was performed (ABI/Inform, ASSIA, British Nursing Index, CINAHL, Informa Health, Medline, PsycINFO, Science Direct, Scopus, and Web of Science) through to 7 February 2017.
The main search identified 2332 articles; 37 studies met the eligibility criteria set. All included studies analysed self-reported attitudes based on correlational analyses or difference testing, therefore causation could not be determined. However, self-reported positive attitudes towards older patients were related to: (i) intrinsic motivation for studying medicine; (ii) increased preference for working with older patients; and (iii) good previous relationships with older people. Additionally, more positive attitudes were also reported in those with higher knowledge scores but these may relate to the use of a knowledge assessment which is an indirect measure of attitudes (i.e. Palmore’s Facts on Aging Quizzes). Four out of the five high quality studies included in this review reported more positive attitudes in females compared to males.
This paper identifies factors associated with medical students’ and doctors’ positive attitudes towards older patients. Future research could bring greater clarity to the relationship between knowledge and attitudes by using a knowledge measure which is distinct from attitudes and also measures knowledge that is relevant to clinical care.

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