Trust in doctors, and the beliefs of older people about the effectiveness of medicine in the fight against cancer

Małgorzata Synowiec-Piłat, Beata Zmyślona, Anna Pałęga


Introduction: Poland is one of the countries with the highest rates of cancer mortality. Throughout Europe and the US, more than 60% of the total cancer incidence is in persons 65 years and older. In the fight against cancer, not only large-scale actions are necessary, but also the improvement of the physician-patient relationship itself. An important part of this relationship is patient’s trust.

In this article we present a study on seniors’ level of trust in doctors and older people’s beliefs about the effectiveness of medicine in the fight against cancer, as well as the influence of variables such as sex, economic status and education on the level of trust in the physician and medicine.

Materials and methods: In 2012, sociological research was conducted among 329 older people in Wrocław in Poland. Quota sampling was applied and a questionnaire with a high level of standardization was used. We used available methods for categorical data analysis.

Results: Most of the respondents declared trust in doctors but to varying degrees. The level of trust in a doctor depends on income and education; 44.98% of respondents agreed with the statement that “modern medicine (…) can cope effectively with cancer”. However, 55.02% of respondents disagreed with that. The type of declaration was correlated with the income of respondents.

Conclusions: The level of trust in physicians and medicine depends on socio-demographic variables that determine inequalities in health, such as age, economic situation and education. The results will be used to develop more effective health promotion and oncological prevention programmes targeting older people.


doctor–patient relationship; health and medical sociology; cancer; health beliefs

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