In the medicine cabinet: Exploring Britons’ attitudes towards non-prescription medications
February 2nd, 2024, Bhavika Bansal

In the medicine cabinet: Exploring Britons’ attitudes towards non-prescription medications

With pharmacies having become a kaleidoscope of health and wellness options, Britons find themselves at the intersection of traditional healthcare and a burgeoning market of dietary supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. But what do they think of dietary supplements, do they trust their pharmacist, and do they always rely on doctor’s recommendations before self-medicating?

Recent data from YouGov Profiles reveals that more than two-fifths of Britons agree that taking dietary supplements without a doctor’s recommendation is totally fine (44%) while nearly a third disagree (31%).

While both men and women in Great Britain are equally likely to agree that doctor’s recommendations are not always needed before taking a supplement (43% and 45% respectively), 18-to-34-year-olds (52%) and 35-to-54-year-olds (50%) are far likelier to say the same compared to Britons aged 55 and above (33%). 

Interestingly, though a substantial share of Britons don’t think they need to ask a doctor before taking a supplement, two-thirds disagree that one can take as many supplements as one wants because they are not typically medication (66%). 

Compared to nearly three-quarters of Britons above the age of 55 (71%), 59% of 18-to-34-year-old Britons say the same.

Similarly, women in Briton are much likelier to disagree that since supplements are not medicine, you can take as many as you want, as opposed to men (71% vs. 60%).

What about non-prescription and over-the-counter medication?

Though a majority of Britons disagree (51%) when asked if they take non-prescription medicine when sick, a substantial share of our respondents indicate their willingness to self-medicate when unwell (35%). 

Due, in part perhaps, to the risks associated with not visiting the doctor as one gets older, more than half of Britons aged 55 and above disagree with the statement (53%). On the other hand, two out of five 18-to-34-year-olds say the opposite (40%) - they take non-prescription medication as soon as they get sick.

Notably, pharmacists appear to be highly trusted amongst Britons, with nearly three-quarters of respondents saying they usually take the pharmacists’ advice when buying over-the counter medicines (74%).

Though Britons of all ages share similar views about this, pharmacists’ expertise is more likely to be relied upon by our female respondents compared to the male respondents (76% vs. 71%).

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Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data for Great Britain is nationally representative and weighted by age, gender, education, region, and race. Learn more about Profiles.