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Ann Pharmacother. 2003 Mar;37(3):361-6.

International survey of self-reported medicine use among adolescents.

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Pharmaceutical University of Denmark, Department of Social Pharmacy, Copenhagen, Denmark.



To examine gender, age, and country variations in adolescents' self-reported medicine use.


Cross-sectional school surveys of representative samples of 11- to 15-year-old girls and boys were used. The 1997/1998 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study was referenced. A standardized questionnaire was completed during school hours.


Canada, US, Greenland, Israel, and 24 European countries.


123 227 participants equally distributed by gender and by 3 age groups (mean 11.7, 13.6, 15.6 y).


Self-reported medicine use for headache, stomachache, difficulties in getting to sleep, and nervousness during the past month.


The magnitude of the adolescents' medicine use for headache, stomachache, difficulties in getting to sleep, and nervousness varied substantially across countries. In each of the 28 countries, more girls than boys used medicine for pain. Use of medicine for headache increased by age; use of medicine for stomachache increased by age among girls, but decreased among boys; and use of medicine for difficulties in getting to sleep and nervousness decreased from the age of 11 to 15 years. There was an increase in the crude girl versus boy ratios for medicine use by age for all 4 symptoms. Multivariate logistic regression analyses, adjusting for age group and country, revealed the following odds ratios (95% CI) for girls' versus boys' medicine use: headache 1.56 (1.53 to 1.60), stomachache 2.16 (2.10 to 2.22), difficulties in getting to sleep 0.96 (0.91 to 1.00), and nervousness 1.04 (0.99 to 1.08).


Substantial proportions of adolescents used medicine for common health problems. The prevalence of use differed between type of symptom for which the medicine was used, between countries, and between gender and age groups. We suggest that young people's medicine use should be addressed in public health policy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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