Nearly half of population on prescribed pills

Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
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ALMOST half of the population of England is regularly taking prescribed drugs, with cholesterol-lowering statins, pain relief and anti-depressants among the most common, a major study has found.

The comprehensive Health Survey for England, which provides a snapshot of the nation’s health, shows 43 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women took at least one medicine in the last week.

This represents an average of 2.7 million items dispensed every day in the UK.

More than 307 million prescriptions, 30 per cent of the total, were for cardiovascular disease. The most commonly prescribed single medicine was to lower cholesterol.

The cost to the NHS was more than £15bn per year out of a total budget of nearly £100bn.

Almost a quarter of both sexes had taken at least three prescribed drugs in the last week. This increased with age, with 70 per cent of those aged 75 and over taking at least three medicines.

Nearly a third of adult smokers had used an electronic cigarette but only three per cent reported using them currently.

There has been a steady decline in the proportion of women smokers over the last decade (17 per cent in 2013 compared with 24 per cent in 2003) but this change has been less pronounced in men (down to 24 per cent from 27 per cent).

Smoking rates in Yorkshire remain higher than average, with 28 per cent of men using tobacco, the second highest for any region in England, and 23 per cent of women, also the second highest.

The survey examined the issue of social care for people over 65 and found that services are under pressure.

It found that a third of women and almost a quarter of men needed help with at least one aspect of their daily life which is important to daily living, such as personal care or mobility around the home.

Just under half of these people received at least some help – with men usually helped by their wives and women by a daughter – but many had an unmet care need.

Some 1.1 million people received community-based care provided by their local authority and a further 270,000 bought care privately.

The results also showed that about a quarter of adults were obese (26 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women). More women than men were obese in Yorkshire, with levels higher than the national average, and the second highest of any region for women.

Based on body mass index and waist circumference, 41 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women were overweight, but not obese.

Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the most telling statistic from the survey is the new data showing that nearly 85 per cent of smokers want to stop smoking.

She said: “These findings should also add impetus to us in the public health sector to look at new ways in which we can support smokers to quit. The intention is clearly there, and if we can help the 85 per cent of smokers who want to quit achieve that goal, we could literally save thousands of lives in this country.”

Referring to e-cigarette use, she said: “It is encouraging to see the data from this survey align with most of the previous research in this country, in showing e-cigarette use to be largely limited to former or current smokers, rather than non-smokers.”