OTC medicines popular among women and higher educated

13/09/2011 15:00

Last year, the proportion of people in the Netherlands taking non-prescribed medicines was as high as those taking prescribed medicines. Over-the-counter (OTC) medication is more common among women, young children, people in their thirties and higher educated.

One third use non-prescribed medicines

One third of people in the Netherlands used OTC medicines in the fortnight prior to the survey in 2010. The same proportion used medicines prescribed by their GP or medical specialist. Approximately 15 percent stated they used prescribed as well as non-prescribed medicines.

Use of medicines 2010

Use of medicines 2010

Mainly women

Women take more medicines than men, especially non-prescribed medicines. Nearly 40 percent of women took non-prescribed medicines in 2010 versus 29 percent of men. Men take non-prescribed painkillers, antipyretics and cold medicines. Women take more vitamin and mineral supplements, homeopathic remedies and OTC medication against rheumatism and pain in the joints.

Use of OTC medicines high among young children and people in their thirties

Older people obviously have more health problems and disorders than young people, but the intake of OTC medicines does not increase as people grow older. Approximately 40 percent of people taking non-prescribed medication are young children under the age of 4 and another 40 percent are people in their thirties. Young children take over-the-counter medication against coughing, cold and flu and vitamin and mineral supplements and homeopathic remedies. People in their thirties take more painkillers and antipyretics.

The proportion of people taking prescribed medication indeed increases with age; from 15 percent in 0 to 4-year-olds to nearly 80 percent in over-75s.

Use of medication by age, 2010

Use of medication by age, 2010

OTC medication intake also higher among higher educated

Proportionally, higher educated take more non-prescribed remedies than lower educated; about 40 percent of people educated at higher vocational or university level versus 30 of people with only primary school. Higher educated take more homeopathic remedies and vitamin and mineral supplements.

With respect to prescribed medicines, it is just the other way round; lower educated people tend to use more medicines than higher educated. In general, higher educated people are healthier than their lower educated counterparts. Differences in the age structure between the two population categories have been taken into account.

Use of medicines by level of education, age-standardised, 2010

Use of medicines by level of education, age-standardised, 2010

Christianne Hupkens