Language barriers surrounding medication use among older Latinos

J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2007 Mar;22(1):101-14. doi: 10.1007/s10823-006-9021-3. Epub 2006 Nov 29.


Limited English language proficiency forms a significant challenge for many Latinos in clinical settings. Although medications are commonly used by older individuals as a means of maintaining good health and managing health problems, the extent to which English proficiency is related to medication use among older Latinos is not known. Focus groups were conducted with Latino, community-residing individuals aged 50 and over in eastern Massachusetts. Qualitative evaluation of the group interviews suggests that language is a barrier in dealing with medication for these individuals. Limited English proficiency appears to be related to feelings of being discriminated against in clinical and pharmacy settings. As well, communicating directly with health professionals in a common language is associated with level of trust and confidence in medical settings. Use of formal and informal interpreters, as well as seeking Spanish-speaking physicians and pharmacies with Spanish-speaking staff, are identified as strategies for overcoming health-related obstacles surrounding language.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / ethnology*
  • Prejudice
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Self Administration
  • Trust