The proportion of pensioners taking multiple drugs has quadrupled in the last 20 years as doctors in the UK have been incentivised to increase the number of prescriptions they write.
Just 12 per cent of over-65s was taking five medications a day in 1997, but today this has risen to 49 per cent, researchers from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health have discovered. Conversely, the proportion of elderly people who weren't taking any medication dropped from 20 per cent to just 8 per cent over the same period.
Drugs for heart problems were the most regularly prescribed medications.
The problem of polypharmacy—as multiple prescriptions are known—can cause many of the problems that are blamed on ageing, such as unsteadiness, dementia and forgetfulness.
The researchers tracked more than 15,000 people from two studies.