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Health Psychol. 2007 Nov;26(6):802-6.

American and German students' knowledge, perceptions, and behaviors with respect to over-the-counter pain relievers.

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Department of Health Services, UCLA School of Public Health, University of California-Los Angeles, CA, USA.



To better understand the knowledge base and perceptions involved in the decision to buy and use over-the-counter pain relievers (OTCPRs) by taking into account the environment in which these decisions are made. The authors expected that the differences in access and marketing would affect knowledge and decision making related to OTCPRs in the United States and Germany.


A survey was given to 108 undergraduate university students in the United States and Germany (58 and 50 participants, respectively).


The authors found that significantly more Americans than Germans take OTCPRs and that they also take significantly more OTCPRs. Americans exhibited less knowledge about side effects than their German counterparts. When asked when they consulted package labels, Americans reported they were more likely to do so before buying a product, whereas Germans reported consulting labels before taking OTCPRs for the first time. Package labels affected more Americans' decisions to purchase OTCPRs; Americans were also less likely to consult a doctor when feeling pain but more likely to take OTCPRs. Finally, Americans viewed OTCPRs as riskier after their status changed from prescription only to over the counter, whereas Germans believed they posed less risk.


This study analyzed health-related behavior by looking at how environmental factors shape decision processes related to over-the-counter drug use. The results indicate that looking at environmental factors does help to explain differences in knowledge, perceptions, and behaviors among German and American students.

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