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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2012 Jan-Mar;1(1):28-41. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.206911.

Prevalence and predictors of self-medication in a selected urban and rural district of Sri Lanka.

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Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health, 231, De Saram Place, Colombo 10, Sri Lanka.
Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka.



Self-medication is widely practised in many developing countries. The determinants of self-medication need to be understood to design adequate medicine information policies and patient-dispenser education strategies. Hence, the prevalence of medicine use and predictors of self-medication were determined in Sri Lanka.


In a community-based cross- sectional study, data were collected from 1800 adults selected from Gampaha and Polonnaruwa districts respectively. Study participants were sampled using a multistage cluster sampling technique. Trained public health midwives administered the questionnaire. Two Likert scales provided information on access to medical care and satisfaction with available pharmacy services. About 95% of the sampled population participated in the study.


Overall, prevalence of medication use (allopathic, traditional, home remedies) in urban and rural population was 33.9% and 35.3%, respectively. Self-medication prevalence of allopathic drugs in the urban sector (12.2%) was significantly higher than in the rural (7.9%) sector(p<0.05). In the urban sector, small household size and preference to have medicines from outside the pharmacies predisposed to self-medication. The higher acceptability of medical services and regularity of medical care decreased the likelihood of self-medication. In the rural sector, lower satisfaction about the healthcare providers' concern for clients, lower satisfaction about affordability of medical care and higher satisfaction with technical competence of the pharmacy staff increased the likelihood of self-medication. In both urban and rural sectors, when symptom count increased, tendency to self-medicate decreased.


Self-medication prevalence was higher in urban compared to rural areas in Sri Lanka. Some aspects of access to medical care, satisfaction with pharmacy services and perceived severity of the disease were found to be important determinants of self-medication.

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