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Am J Public Health. 1993 Nov;83(11):1577-82.

Prescription and nonprescription drug use among black and white community-residing elderly.

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  • 1Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C. 27710.



To examine and compare concomitants of prescription and nonprescription drug use of Black and White community-dwelling elderly.


Information on prescription and nonprescription drug use, demographic and health characteristics, and use of health services was obtained from a probability-based sample of Black (n = 2152) and White (n = 1821) community-resident elderly in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Linear regression, in which sample weights and design effects were taken into account, was used for the final models.


For prescription drug use, 37% and 32% of the variance was explained for Whites and Blacks, respectively (6% and 5% for nonprescription drugs). Health status and use of medical services were the strongest predictors of prescription drug use for both races (with Medigap insurance also important for Whites and Medicaid important for Blacks). Demographic characteristics and self-assessed health were significant factors in the use of nonprescription drugs. Race independently predicted use of both types of drugs but explained only a small proportion of the variance.


Health status and use of health services are importantly related to prescription drug use. Non-prescription drug use is difficult to explain.

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