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Front Public Health. 2016 Apr 18;4:69. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00069. eCollection 2016.

Observations on the Prevalence, Characteristics, and Effects of Self-Treatment.

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Department of Biostatistics, Yale University , New Haven, CT , USA.



When facing illness, a person may choose self-treatment as an alternative to hospital (and primary care)-based treatment. Despite its important role in health care, the study on self-treatment remains limited. The goal is to collectively report the observations in the literature on the prevalence, characteristics, and effects of self-treatment.


Databases (Medline/PubMed and Google Scholar) were searched. Articles were scrutinized for country of origin, sample size, recall period, prevalence, associated factors, etc.


Published studies have reported that in some regions, the prevalence of self-treatment is high and varies across illness conditions and treatment approaches. Self-medication is the most popular self-treatment approach. Multiple regional, demographic, personal, cultural, and religious factors have been implicated in the pursuit of self-treatment. In addition, accessibility of health care also plays a role. In general, self-treatment has a positive clinical and financial effect. However, there have been concerns on abuse and possible negative effects.


This article reviews observations made in recent studies on several important aspects of self-treatment. Comprehensive and systematic study is still lacking. Interventions are needed to solve several problems associated with self-treatment.


associated factors; empirical observations; prevalence; self-treatment; treatment effects

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