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Americans Take Health Care into Their Own Hands

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) recently released the results of a study on the self-medication trends of Americans. According to survey results, Americans are increasingly comfortable managing their own health. The study found that 59 percent of Americans say they are more likely to treat their own health condition now than they were a year ago. In addition, 96 percent, an overwhelming majority, say they are generally confident about the healthcare decisions they make for themselves.

The survey also revealed that Americans rely more on themselves than on physicians when feeling under the weather. Of the 1,505 respondents, 73 percent would rather treat themselves at home than see a doctor, and 62 percent say they would like to do more of this in the future. "While there is no substitute for a physician," said Michael Maves, M.D., M.B.A., president of CHPA, "Americans are taking control of minor medical problems with safe, reliable over-the-counter medications."

In fact, according to the survey results, 77 percent of Americans are more likely to take an over-the-counter (OTC) medication to treat common ailments rather than wait to see if the problems go away on their own (69 percent). Nearly 80 percent of Americans report using an OTC medication in the past year to treat at least one of the ailments they suffer from. This is almost twice the number that either consulted a physician or took a prescription medication. While relying heavily on OTC medications, consumers understand that these products must be used properly. According to the study, a large majority say they take the necessary precautions, such as reading directions before using a product for the first time (95 percent), examining labels to help choose medications (89 percent) and reviewing possible side effects and interactions (91 percent).

Americans also rely on nutritional supplements to maintain good health. The survey showed that 57 percent say they are either actively using dietary supplements or researching information about them. More than eight in 10 Americans who take dietary supplements say they are satisfied with the results.

With regards to alternative medicines, mature Americans and women are more likely to be currently familiar with alternative medicines, and African Americans and Hispanic Americans show the highest level of interest in becoming more familiar with alternative medicines in the future.

The findings in this study are based on 1,505 interviews conducted via telephone by Roper Starch Worldwide from January 8–24, 2001. The results of the survey may be projected to the entire U.S. population with a margin of error of +/-2.6 percent. Hispanic Americans and African Americans were oversampled in the research to ensure that findings for these groups are projectable. Based in Washington D.C., CHPA is a 120-year-old trade association representing U.S. manufacturers and distributors of nonprescription, OTC medicines and dietary supplement products. More information on this survey is available at <>.

— Kim West, ABC

[CHPA press release, March 21, 2001]