Rise in meds use

The number of Australians taking cold, flu and allergy medication has risen by almost 3 million in a decade

While the rate of Australians’ overall medication consumption has risen only slightly compared to a decade ago, the use of allergy, antihistamine, and cold and flu drugs has leapt up, according to new health and wellbeing data from Roy Morgan.

The proportion of Australians aged 14 and over who reported taking any form of medication in a 12-month period rose from 88.4% (15.6 million) in 2009 to 89.1% (18.5 million) in 2019.

Meanwhile the proportion of Australians aged 14 and over who reported using allergy, antihistamine, cold or flu medications jumped from 33% in 2009 to 44.5% in 2019.

In 2019, “general medications” such as paracetamol and ibuprofen were consumed by the highest proportion of Australians (78.2%, down 3.1% from 2009) in an average 12-month period.

These were followed by allergy, antihistamine, cold and flu medications (44.5%, up 11.5%), digestive system medications (25.7%, up 7.6%), heart and circulation medications (18.3%, up 0.9%) and bone, joint and muscle medications (16.8%, down 2.9%).

Proportion of Australians who have taken medication in an average twelve months

Source: Roy Morgan

A higher proportion of women than men take medication, but men experienced a slightly larger increase in use over the last decade.

Medication use is also highly correlated to age, with use highest among Australians aged 65+ (95.4%), 50-64 (93.9%) and 35-49 (91.4%).

The taking of medication drops significantly down to 82.6% for those aged 25-34 and 79.6% for those under 25.

Proportion of Australians who have taken medication type in an average twelve months

Source: Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says medication use continues to trend upward.

“Although the increase in overall medication consumption compared with 10 years ago has been minimal, it is still moving in an upward direction,” said Ms Levine.

“‘General medications’, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are the most widely consumed medication types, with just under 80% of Australians having taken them in an average 12 months.

“However, the biggest increase has occurred with allergy, antihistamine, and cold and flu drugs, up by more than a third over the past 10 years.

“Digestive system medications, although taken by a smaller number of Australians, also increased considerably over the same period.”

Ms Levine says very high rates of medication consumption, particularly among women and the elderly, have become normalised in Australia.

“In our society an extremely high proportion of women, as well as those aged over 35, consume medication,” she said.

“And while correctly used medication undoubtedly plays a very important role in health and wellbeing, it’s worth considering whether consumption rates will eventually reach the whole population, or whether future generations will begin to reverse the trend.”

The findings are taken from the Roy Morgan Single Source survey, compiled by in-depth face-to-face interviews with over 1,000 Australians each week in their homes.

Altogether the data base comprised 49,462 Australians aged 14 and over, surveyed between October 2018 – September 2019.

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