Self-medication among adolescents aged 18 years: The 1993 Pelotas (Brazil) birth cohort study

Andréa Dâmaso Bertoldi, Aline Lins Camargo, Marysabel Pinto Telis Silveira, Ana M.B. Menezes, Maria Cecília Formoso Assunção, Helen Gonçalves, Pedro Curi Hallal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose To estimate the point prevalence of self-medication among adolescents aged 18 years and to evaluate the type of drugs used (either over-the-counter or prescription drugs) and socioeconomic, health-related, and behavioral correlates of self-medication. Methods This cross-sectional study used data from the 1993 Pelotas (Brazil) Birth Cohort Study. Data were obtained through the administration of a questionnaire to adolescents aged 18 years. The outcome variables were point prevalence of medicine use and self-medication collected by self-report. The independent variables studied were gender, continuous medicine use, socioeconomic status, schooling, self-rated health, body mass index, and physical activity levels. Medicines were classified into therapeutic groups according to the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical classification system. Results A total of 4,106 adolescents were interviewed. The point prevalence of medicine use was 41.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] 39.6-42.6), and the proportion of self-medication among medicine users was 65.1% (95% CI 62.8-67.4). The point prevalence of self-medication was 26.7% (95% CI 25.4-28.1), and it was higher among female adolescents, those more educated, and those who rated their health as poor. Out of the drugs used for self-medication (58% of all drugs used), 1,003 (78.7%) were nonprescription drugs and 271 (21.3%) were prescription drugs. The most frequently used drugs for self-medication were analgesics (56.1%), systemic antihistamines (7.4%), and anti-inflammatory and antirheumatic products (7.1%). Conclusions A high point prevalence of self-medication was found among adolescents, which is particularly concerning due to high use of prescription drugs for self-medication. Interventions are needed to promote rational use of medicines in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-181
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Cohort study
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Self-medication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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