To examine the level and patterns of self-reported medication use (prescription and non-prescription drugs) among 70–74 year old individuals living in the community, and to explore self-reported indications for use, and factors possibly predictive of drug use.
A health survey carried out in 1997–99 in the county of Hordaland (Western Norway) in the setting of a population study. A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to 4338 persons born in 1925–27, and a health check-up was offered. Drug use the previous day was reported (point prevalence). 3341 (77.0%) persons who responded, comprise the material for the analyses.
Between one third (males) and one quarter (females) did not take any drug the previous day. Mean number of drugs among users was 2.8 (men and women). 32% used three or more drugs and 11.5% five or more. Hypertension and other cardiovascular problems were by far the most common reasons for drug use, followed by respiratory, musculoskeletal and mental health problems. Self-reported poor health, a high Body Mass Index (BMI), and being an ex-smoker (but not currently a smoker) correlated with increasing number of drugs taken.
Among 70–74-year old individuals living in the community no use of medication was more common than major polypharmacy (5+ drugs). Persons who had fallen ill and were put on regular medication, probably tended to quit smoking, while those who remained healthy, continued to smoke.