DOI: 10.1097/md.0000000000034723 ISSN:

Age and professional experience as determinants of the utilization of psychoneuroimmunological research in clinical practice: An exploratory study

Christian Mareth, Ulrich K. Fetzner, Christoph H. Saely
  • General Medicine

The immune system is affected by psychosocial stimuli and plays a major role in the development of various diseases. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)-based interventions may positively influence the disease course; however, the impact of PNI research findings on clinical practice differs depending on the medical specialties involved. A comprehensive overview of the use of PNI research findings in clinical practice is currently lacking. This exploratory study aimed to provide insight into the dissemination of PNI research findings and their practical applications among clinical practitioners. Data was collected from 50 physicians using an ad hoc online questionnaire. We invited participants to take part in our online survey via an article in the DocCheck Newsletter, a German-language newsletter for physicians. Bivariate nonparametric correlation analysis (Spearman correlation) were used to explore the relationship between independent variables (age, sex, medical specialty, professional experience, and clinical environment) and dependent variables (six questionnaire items concerned with awareness, relevance, and utilization of PNI concepts). While 46% of respondents believed that PNI research findings were relevant to patient treatment, only 22% used PNI-based interventions as part of their therapeutic regimen. Furthermore, 90% of participants could not refer their patients to therapists offering PNI-based interventions. Moderately positive correlations were identified between the increasing age (rs = .48, P < .001) and increasing amount of professional experience (rs = .34, P = .02) of study participants and awareness of the theoretical foundations of PNI research. Although there is some awareness of PNI among medical practitioners, there appears to be a clear barrier inhibiting the implementation of research findings in current treatment practices. Therefore, it is necessary to examine the impact of increasing age and professional experience on the utilization of PNI-based interventions in patient care.

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