Half of Americans Currently Taking Prescription Medication

by Joseph Carroll

Nearly 9 in 10 seniors say they take prescriptions

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual survey about health and healthcare in the United States finds that about half of Americans report that they are currently taking prescription medication. Americans are much more likely to take medication for a long-term rather than short-term medical condition, and to take it for a physical rather than psychological or emotional condition. Americans also spend an average of $46 per month for their medications. (This average monthly spending is higher, at $89 per month, among those currently taking prescription medications.)

Prescription Drug Use

The poll, conducted Nov. 7-10, finds that 52% of Americans say they are currently taking prescription medication, while 48% say they are not. These results show a slight increase in reported prescription drug use from when Gallup first asked the question in 2003.

Perhaps not surprisingly, senior citizens are more likely than any other group in the country to take prescription drugs. Only about one in four adults aged 18 to 29 (27%) currently take prescription medication. This percentage increases to 40% among 30- to 49-year-olds, 61% among 50- to 64-year-olds, and to an overwhelming 88% among adults aged 65 and older.

By a 60% to 44% margin, women are more likely than men to say they are currently taking prescription medication. And, this difference is found more so among younger women. Forty-six percent of women in the 18 to 49 age group say they currently take prescription medication, compared with only 26% of men in this age group. At least 7 in 10 men and women aged 50 and older take prescriptions.

For What Conditions Are Americans Taking Prescriptions?

The poll also finds that Americans take prescription medication to combat long-term conditions and for physical ailments.

One in three Americans (34%) say they take prescription drugs to treat a long-term illness or condition only, while 7% use them for a short-term condition only, and 9% use them for both. (Among those Americans currently taking prescription medication, 66% use it for a long-term condition, 13% for a short-term condition, and 18% for both.)

Few Americans report that they are taking prescription medication for a psychological or emotional condition. The poll finds that 41% are taking prescriptions for a physical condition only, while 3% are taking them for an emotional condition only, and 6% are taking them for both. (Among prescription drug users, 78% take these drugs for a physical condition, 5% for an emotional condition, and 13% for both.)

Prescription Drug Costs

Americans report that they spend an average of $46 per month on prescription drugs. This average includes the one-half of Americans who do not currently take prescriptions, or do not spend money on them. Among those who currently take prescription drugs, the average monthly spending is $89 per month. Americans' spending on drugs breaks down as follows: 50% do not take prescriptions or spend nothing on them, 12% spend between $1 and $25 per month, 14% spend between $26 and $50 per month, 10% spend between $51 and $100 per month, and 12% spend more than that.

Prescription Drug Costs
among all Americans
Nov. 7-10, 2005

%

Not taking prescription medication or costs nothing a month

50

Taking prescription medication, costs $1-$25 a month

12

Taking prescription medication, costs $26-$50 a month

14

Taking prescription medication, costs $51-$100 a month

10

Taking prescription medication, costs $101-$200 a month

7

Taking prescription medication, costs more than $200 a month

5

No opinion

2

Mean

$46

Seniors spend significantly more on prescription medication than do younger Americans. Americans aged 18 to 29 only spend an average of $13 per month on prescriptions, in large part because relatively few people in this age group are taking any prescription medication. This is slightly higher among 30- to 49-year-olds, who spend an average of $31 per month. Results are even higher among adults aged 50 to 64 who spend $58 per month, and among adults aged 65 and older, who spend $93 per month.

Prescription Medication Costs
by age
Nov. 7-10, 2005

18- to 29-year-olds

30- to 49-year-olds

50- to 64-year-olds

65 years and older

%

%

%

%

Not taking any/costs nothing

78

63

42

14

Costs $1-$25 a month

7

13

12

14

Costs $26-$50 a month

10

9

15

23

Costs $51-$100 a month

1

7

14

15

Costs $101-$200 a month

3

4

9

15

Costs more than $200 a month

1

3

8

11

Mean

$13

$31

$58

$93

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted November 7-10, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributed to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 580 adults currently taking prescription medication, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

18. Are you currently taking any prescription medication, or not?

Yes

No

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Nov 7-10

52

48

*

2003 Nov 10-12

48

52

*

* Less than 0.5%

19. Are you taking prescription medication to treat a long-term illness or condition, a short-term illness or condition, or both?

BASED ON 580 ADULTS WHO CURRENTLY TAKE PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION

Long-term

Short-term

Both

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Nov 7-10

66

13

18

3

2003 Nov 10-12

66

16

16

2

BASED ON NATIONAL ADULTS: COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.18-19)

2005 Nov 7-10

2003 Nov 10-12

%

%

Taking prescription medication

52

48

(Taking for a long-term condition)

(34)

(32)

(Taking for a short-term condition)

(7)

(8)

(Taking for both)

(9)

(7)

(Taking, unspecified)

(2)

(1)

Not taking prescription medication

48

52

No opinion

*

*

* Less than 0.5%


20. Are you taking prescription medication for a physical condition, a psychological or emotional condition, or both?

BASED ON 580 ADULTS WHO CURRENTLY TAKE PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION


Physical

Psychological/
emotional


Both

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Nov 7-10

78

5

13

4

2003 Nov 10-12

75

5

15

5

BASED ON NATIONAL ADULTS: COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.18/Q.20)

2005 Nov 7-10

2003 Nov 10-12

%

%

Taking prescription medication

52

48

(Taking for a physical condition)

(41)

(36)

(Taking for a psychological/emotional condition)

(3)

(3)

(Taking for both)

(6)

(7)

(Taking, unspecified)

(2)

(2)

Not taking prescription medication

48

52

No opinion

*

*

* Less than 0.5%

21. What is your best estimate of the total amount of money you pay out of pocket EACH MONTH for prescription drugs?[OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 580 ADULTS WHO CURRENTLY TAKE PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION


$0/
nothing


$1-$25/ month


$26-$50/ month


$51-$100/ month


$101-$200/ month

More than $200/month



No opinion




Mean




Median

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Nov 7-10

6

22

27

19

13

10

3

$89

$50

2003 Nov 10-12

8

21

23

21

13

10

4

$98

$50

BASED ON NATIONAL ADULTS: COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.18/Q.21)

2005 Nov 7-10

2003 Nov 10-12

%

%

Not taking prescription medication or costs nothing a month

50

55

Taking prescription medication, costs $1-$25 a month

12

10

Taking prescription medication, costs $26-$50 a month

14

11

Taking prescription medication, costs $51-$100 a month

10

10

Taking prescription medication, costs $101-$200 a month

7

6

Taking prescription medication, costs more than $200 a month

5

5

No opinion

2

3

Mean

$46

$46

Median

$0

$0

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