Relationship between outpatients' perceptions of physicians' communication styles and patients' anxiety levels in a Japanese oncology setting

Soc Sci Med. 2001 Nov;53(10):1335-50. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00413-5.


For life-threatening illnesses such as cancer that require a long-term treatment regimen, communication is particularly important between doctors and patients. While it is assumed that the more serious the illness, the greater the need to relieve patients' anxiety, physicians' communication styles can directly influence patients' anxiety levels. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between outpatients' perceptions of physicians' communication styles and the patients' anxiety levels in oncology settings. Patient anxiety level was measured using the State Trait Anxiety Inventory before and after the consultation. The Perceived Physician's Communication Style Scale was developed in this study. Analysis of responses to the scale resulted in four factors--"acceptive", "patient-centered", "attentive", and "facilitative"--of the physician's communication style and explained 63.7% of the variance. The inter-correlation for overall scale items was 0.95. Patient satisfaction with the medical encounter was also measured to validate the physician's communication style scale. Moderate correlation between the physician's communication style and satisfaction was observed and confirms the relationship between a favorable communication style and a patient's satisfaction. After the consultation, the patients' anxiety levels dropped 5.0 +/- 1.5 points (p<0.001), and the physician's communication style was shown in many cases to be linked to patient anxiety levels after the consultation. The effect of the physician's communication style on patients' post-consultation anxiety levels was small among the patients with an advanced disease status. Also, the findings showed that patients' post-consultation anxiety levels remained low even among those patients with unfavorable examination results if the patients evaluated their physician's communication style as high. This study suggested that the physician's communication style is important not only for moderating patients' anxiety, but could also be helpful for moderating physicians' own stress levels when communicating bad news to patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / classification*
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Manifest Anxiety Scale
  • Medical Oncology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Oncology Service, Hospital*
  • Outpatients / psychology*
  • Patient Participation / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician's Role / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*