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Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2017 Aug;26(8):992-997. doi: 10.1002/pds.4238. Epub 2017 Jun 5.

A population-based study of risk perceptions of paracetamol use among Swedes-with a special focus on young adults.

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Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Institute of Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.



The purpose of this study was to investigate risk perceptions of paracetamol use, with a special focus on young adults.


A web survey was sent to a representative sample (n = 5838) of the Swedish adult population. Altogether, 3120 persons answered the full questionnaire. Risk perceptions of paracetamol use in relation to sex, age, and education were determined using logistic regression.


Most respondents (70.5%) reported use of paracetamol in the 3 months prior to the study; the highest proportion was found among those aged 18 to 25 years (75.8%). Nine in 10 were over-the-counter (OTC) paracetamol users. A total of 14.2% thought paracetamol is completely harmless to use while 54.3% indicated risks associated with use even when following the dosing instructions. One third disagreed that it is less risky to use paracetamol compared with nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Three-quarters identified liver damage as a potential consequence of exceeding the recommended maximum daily dose. The likelihood of a high-risk perception was higher in women compared with men, and increased with age. No association was found between risk perception and educational status. Participants aged 18 to 25 years had the same ability to identify risks of overdose as did those aged 26 to 65, but expressed more careless attitudes towards use.


Although the study population purchased paracetamol primarily OTC, they demonstrated basic awareness of paracetamol use including the potential consequences of overdosing. Young adults (18-25 y), who were the most frequent users of OTC paracetamol, perceived less risk associated with use compared with older participants.


medication use; over-the-counter; paracetamol; population-based; risk perception

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