Table of Contents
Pain Research and Treatment
Volume 2015, Article ID 263904, 7 pages
Research Article

The Association between Patient-Reported Pain and Doctors’ Language Proficiency in Clinical Practice

1Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki, Kiskontie 23 B, 00280 Helsinki, Finland
2Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki, PB 20 (Tukholmankatu 8 B), 00014 Helsinki, Finland

Received 22 June 2015; Accepted 6 September 2015

Academic Editor: Anna Maria Aloisi

Copyright © 2015 Marianne Mustajoki et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Patients’ limited literacy and language fluency of different kinds cause them problems in navigating the medical interview. However, it is not known how physicians’ native language skills affect the reported intensity of pain among Finnish emergency patients. Data were collected with two consecutive questionnaires in 16 healthcare centres and outpatient departments along the Finnish coast. Swedish and Finnish speaking 18–65-year-old emergency patients were eligible for this study. Our patients were predominantly Finnish speakers. Patient-rated poor language skills in Finnish among the physicians in ED setting increased statistically significantly pain reported by the Finnish speaking patients and their dissatisfaction with the health service. These patients were also less motivated to adhere to the instructions given by their physician. Patients speaking various languages reported less degree of pain. Foreign physicians’ poor language proficiency in Finnish was expected to explain only some of the patients’ pain experience. Physicians’ good native language skills may help to reduce pain experience. Despite concordant language communication, other unknown barriers in the interaction might reduce the magnitude of pain reported.