Attitudes towards older people among Swedish health care students and health care professionals working in elder care

  • Gabriella Engström | School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Eskilstuna, Sweden.
  • Ingegerd Fagerberg Department of Health Care Sciences, Ersta Sköndal University College, and Department of Neurobiology, Caring and Social Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


The proportion of older people in the general population has increased and will continue to increase during the coming decade. Therefore, a positive attitude towards older people is important. The aim of the study was to gain knowledge about attitudes towards older people among health care students and health care staff in Swedish elder care settings. The study includes a convenience sample of 928 respondents comprised of health care students and three groups of professional caregivers [registered nurses (RNs) with university degrees, certified nursing assistants (CNAs), nurses] in a variety of health care settings in Sweden. The participants completed the Kogan’s Old People (KOPS) Scale with 17 positive (OP+) and 17 negative (OP–) statements. The statements score ranged from 17 to 85 respectively. A significant (P<0.05) difference in both positive and negative scores was observed among the three professional caregiver groups. RNs had the highest positive score (OP+:64) as well as the lowest negative score (OP–:36). Health care students in semester one had the most unfavourable attitude toward older people (OP–:41) while students in semester two had the most favourable attitude toward older people (OP+:62). RNs reported both a higher positive score as well as lower negative score compared to nurses without an academic degree and CNAs. In addition, we found that progression in one’s health care education contributes to reduce unfavourable attitudes toward older people. Health care professionals need to have the right skills to manage a more demanding role in the future in order to offer effective services for older people. A skilled workforce of health professionals is therefore very necessary.



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Author Biography

Gabriella Engström, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Eskilstuna

Gabriella Engstrom is an associate Professor at the School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Sweden. Her major research interests are incontinence and care of older people with a focus on dementia.


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Original Articles
Supporting Agencies
Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse, Sweden
Kogan’s old people scale, attitudes, hHealth care students, professional caregiver, older people.
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How to Cite
Engström, G., & Fagerberg, I. (2011). Attitudes towards older people among Swedish health care students and health care professionals working in elder care. Nursing Reports, 1(1), e2.