Patient-provider communication and low-income adults: Age, race, literacy, and optimism predict communication satisfaction

Jakob D. Jensen, Andy J. King, Lisa M. Guntzviller, La Shara A. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess whether literacy, numeracy, and optimism are related to low-income adults' satisfaction with their healthcare provider's communication skills. Methods: Low-income adults (N = 131) were recruited from seven counties in Indiana through University extension programs. To achieve research triangulation, participants were surveyed and interviewed about their communication satisfaction with health providers. Results: Survey data revealed that four variables significantly predicted satisfaction: age, race, literacy, and optimism. Low-income adults in the current study were more critical of their healthcare provider's communication skills if they were younger, White, functionally literate, and pessimistic. Follow-up interviews confirmed this pattern and suggested it was a byproduct of patient activism. Conclusion: In low-income populations, communication satisfaction may be lower for groups that are traditionally active in doctor-patient interactions (e.g., younger patients, patients with higher literacy skills). Practice implications: Healthcare providers should be aware that older, non-White, optimistic, and literacy deficient patients report greater communication satisfaction than their younger, White, pessimistic, and functionally literate peers. Both groups may be coping with their situation, the former by withdrawing and the latter by actively pushing for a higher standard of care. Healthcare providers should continue to seek out ways to facilitate dialogue with these underserved groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-35
Number of pages6
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Communication satisfaction
  • Health literacy
  • Low-income
  • Numeracy
  • Optimism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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