Self-medication among participants of an Open University of the Third Age and associated factors

Abstract Objective: to identify the prevalence of self-medication, the therapeutic classes used without medical prescription, the symptoms treated with such medication and associated factors among participants of an Open University of the Third Age (OU3A). Method: a cross-sectional, descriptive and analytical study was carried out, the sample of which was composed of 138 OU3A attendees. To estimate the association between the variables, prevalence ratios (PR), confidence intervals (95% CI), the chi-squared test and Fisher's exact test were used. Results: the majority were aged 60-69 years (61.6%), were female (75.4%), had a health plan (63%) and claimed to self-medicate (59.4%, 95% CI, 0-64.8). The most frequently mentioned therapeutic classes were analgesics (31.9%), muscle relaxants (13.8%), anti-inflammatories (13.0%) and first-generation antihistamines (7.2%). The most commonly reported self-medication symptoms were muscle and joint pain (21.0%), headaches (10.1%) and colds and flu (8.7%). There was a significant association (p = 0.049) among those who self-medicated more frequently and anti-inflammatory use (PR = 1.46, 95% CI = 1.10-1.99). The complaint of muscular and articular pain exhibited a significant association with the diagnosis of arthrosis (p = 0.003, RP = 3.75, 95% CI = 2.07-6.76) and hypothyroidism (p = 0.002, RP = 2.77 ; 95% CI = 1.50-5.10). Conclusion: the most frequently mentioned reasons for self-medicating were previous experience using the drug and the certainty that it is safe. Most of the above medications are potentially inappropriate for the elderly. However, the elderly consider them safe and are unaware of the risks to which they expose them. They may also be unaware that pain treated by self-medication may be related to pre-existing diseases, which require the appropriate professional and treatment.