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Americans spend half their lives on prescription drugs

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Americans will spend half their lives taken prescription drugs.

The average American male will be on drugs for 48 percent of his life, and this rises to 60 percent in American women.

Most women start taking drugs from the age of 15, while men begin medicating from the age of 40, say researchers from Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute.  An American born in 2019 will spend a larger share of their lives taking prescription drugs than being married, says Jessica Ho, one of the researchers.

The Penn team analysed data from several household surveys, which were matched against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) records. In all, data from around 15,000 households was captured.

On average, a boy born in 2019 would be taking prescription drugs for 37 years of his life, and a girl born the same year would be on medication for 47.5 years.

Women start taking contraceptives early, but they are also medicating with painkillers and psychotherapy drugs to treat anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

Men tend to take more cholesterol-lowering statins and medications for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Both sexes are also taking multiple drugs.  In the 1990s, people were often taking just one prescription medication, but today most are taking at least five different drugs.

Most drugs that people are taking are recent innovations, and nobody knows their longterm effects, and the chemical cocktail of taking five drugs at the same time has never been studied, said Ho.

Despite this extensive drug use, and the costs that go with it, Americans are less healthy and live shorter lives than their counterparts in other prosperous countries.

References
Demography, 2023; doi: 10.1215/00703370-10965990
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