Self-medication Among Elderly: Evidence Synthesis and a Systematic Review of the Literature

Rabia Hussain, Zhe Chi Loh, Sadia Shakeel, Siew Chin Ong, Zaheer Babar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionarypeer-review


Background: Self-medication refers to the use of medication without medical supervision. This can involve either taking a prescribed drug for chronic or recurring conditions or symptoms or using over-the-counter medications to treat self-diagnosed issues. Older adults are especially susceptible to self-medication, as they may have multiple health conditions and be taking several medications.

Objective: This systematic review aims to identify the prevalence, types of medicines, factors, and causes associated with self-medication among older adults.

Methods: The databases searched included PubMed platform, and the step was further repeated at other databases such as Scopus, Science Direct, Taylor and Francis Online, and Google Scholar. Original research articles reporting the prevalence, types of medicines, factors, and causes associated with the practice of self-medication by elderly, which was available as full text, published in English language between the years 2011 and 2022 were included in the review. Commentaries, letters to editor, and conference proceedings were excluded.

Results: A total of 11 articles were included. The data generated four main subtitles: (1) prevalence of self-medication among older adults, (2) types of medicines for self-medications, (iii) factors influencing elderly to self-medications, and (4) causes of elderly practice self-medications.

Conclusion: The incidence of self-medication among older adults varies across countries and years of research. Brazil reported the highest rate of 85.5% in 2013, while Spain had the lowest rate at 7.8%. Analgesics are the most used medicines, followed by antipyretics and vitamins. Factors such as urgency for treatment, past effectiveness of care, symptom intensity, and medication safety impact the decision to self-medicate. Poor health and sleep problems had also been linked to self-medication. While the elderly primarily makes the choice of self-medication medication, friends, relatives, and neighbors may also influence the decision.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Evidence in Pharmaceutical Public Health and Health Services Research in Pharmacy
EditorsZaheer-Ud-Din Babar
PublisherSpringer, Cham
ISBN (Electronic)9783030502478
ISBN (Print)9783030502478
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Apr 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Self-medication Among Elderly: Evidence Synthesis and a Systematic Review of the Literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this