Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 101–114 | Cite as

Language Barriers Surrounding Medication Use among Older Latinos

  • Jan E. Mutchler
  • Gonzalo Bacigalupe
  • Antonia Coppin
  • Alison Gottlieb
Original Article


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.


English language proficiency Patient–provider communication Trust 



We gratefully acknowledge the research grant support of National Institute on Aging Grant no. RO3 AG19857-01. This research was also supported in part by the Intramural Research program of the NIH, National Institute on Aging. We appreciate the insights and comments from Jeffrey Burr, Vanessa Calderon-Rosado, Brian Clarridge, Michael Montagne, and two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan E. Mutchler
    • 1
  • Gonzalo Bacigalupe
    • 2
  • Antonia Coppin
    • 3
  • Alison Gottlieb
    • 1
  1. 1.Gerontology InstituteUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Graduate College of EducationUniversity of MassachusettsBostonUSA
  3. 3.Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography, and BiometryNational Institute on AgingBethesdaUSA

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