Americans born in 2019 will spend a larger part of their lifetime taking prescription drugs than being married or receiving an education, according to new research.
American males born in 2019 will spend 48 percent, or 37 years, of their lives taking prescription drugs. For females born in the same year, the number jumped to 60 percent (47.5 life years), with most American women taking prescription drugs from age 15, according to the findings now published in the Demography journal.
Professor Jessica Ho, of Pennsylvania State University, said: “The years that people can expect to spend taking prescription drugs are now higher than what they might spend in their first marriage, getting an education or being in the labor force.
“It’s important to recognize the central role that prescription drug use has taken on in our lives.”
The research used nationally representative surveys conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 1996 to 2019 to study prescription drug use across the United States.
These included information from 15,000 households chosen annually, with data being collected every five months.
Mortality data was also used from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Human Mortality Database to estimate how long Americans born in 2019 could expect to live. This was then combined with the survey data to estimate the percentage of their lifetimes they could expect to spend taking prescription medications.
“We see that women start taking prescription drugs earlier than men do, and some of that is related to birth control and hormonal contraceptives,” Miss Ho added.
“But it is also related to greater use of psychotherapeutic drugs and painkillers among women. If we consider the difference between men and women, excluding contraceptives would only account for about a third of the difference.
The remaining two-thirds is primarily driven by the use of other hormone-related drugs, painkillers and psychotherapeutic drugs used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety and ADHD.”
Men, on the other hand, tend to take more statins and other medications to treat cardiovascular disease, but this varies across race and ethnicity.
Miss Ho said: “Non-Hispanic Black men have lower rates of statin use than non-Hispanic whites or Hispanics. That’s concerning because we know that cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other metabolic disorders are really high among Black men.
“There’s no reason that they should be taking these drugs for fewer years of their lives than men in other racial and ethnic groups.
“Health care access, differential treatment by medical providers, and available socioeconomic resources vary across populations and may help to account for these differences.”
Miss Ho also found that rates of polypharmacy, or when an individual takes five or more drugs at the same time, have risen to alarming levels.
In the mid-1990s, most people taking prescription medications were on one drug. Today, individuals taking prescription medications are equally likely to be taking five or more medications.
As for healthcare costs, prescription drug expenditures hit $335 billion in 2018.
Out-of-pocket expenditures on prescription medications account for 14 percent of drug spending, and prescription drug spending is projected to hit $875 billion, or 15.4 percent of national health expenditures, by 2026.
Ho said: “This paper is not trying to say that use of prescription drugs is good or bad.
“Obviously, they have made a difference in treating many conditions, but there are growing concerns about how much is too much.
There’s a large body of research that shows Americans are less healthy and live shorter lives than our counterparts in other high-income countries.
“The prescription drug piece is part and parcel of that reality. What we find is, even above and beyond what we might expect to be seeing, the rates of prescription drug use in the United States are extraordinarily high.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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