Nearly 7-in-10 adults take a prescription drug, study finds

Mayo Clinic study finds heavier prescription drug use among women, older people

ROCHESTER, Minn. — A large majority of Americans are taking prescription drugs, according to a new study by the Mayo Clinic.

The study, published online in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that nearly 70% of Americans are taking at least one drug, and more than half are taking two. Most of the drugs are antibiotics, antidepressants and opioid painkillers. Researchers said the data, which came from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, would be valuable because it would give insight into prescribing practices.

"Often, when people talk about health conditions, they're talking about chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes," study author Jennifer St. Sauver said. "However, the second most common prescription was for antidepressants; that suggests mental health is a huge issue and is something we should focus on. And the third most common drugs were opioids, which is a big concerning considering their addicting nature."

Drugs to control blood pressure were fourth on the list, while vaccines were fifth. Overall, women and older adults received more prescriptions, while vaccines, antibiotics and asthma drugs were most commonly prescribed to those younger than 19 years. Antidepressants and opioids were most common among young and middle-aged adults, while cardiovascular drugs were more common among older adults. Women received more prescriptions than men across several drug groups, particularly antidepressants, with nearly 25% of women aged 50 to 64 on an antidepressant.

Use of prescription drugs has increased steadily in the United States for the past decade, with the percentage of people taking at least one increasing from 44% in 1999-2000 to 48% in 2007-2008. Spending on prescription drugs was $250 billion in 2009, accounting for 12% of personal health expenditures overall.

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