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Open Access Research article

Self-reported medication side effects in an older cohort living independently in the community - the Melbourne Longitudinal Study on Healthy Ageing (MELSHA): cross-sectional analysis of prevalence and risk factors

Jennifer A Thomson1*, Wei C Wang1, Colette Browning1 and Hal L Kendig2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

2 Faculty of Health Sciences, University Sydney, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:37  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-37

Published: 10 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Medication side effects are an important cause of morbidity, mortality and costs in older people. The aim of our study was to examine prevalence and risk factors for self-reported medication side effects in an older cohort living independently in the community.

Methods

The Melbourne Longitudinal Study on Healthy Ageing (MELSHA), collected information on those aged 65 years or older living independently in the community and commenced in 1994. Data on medication side effects was collected from the baseline cohort (n = 1000) in face-to-face baseline interviews in 1994 and analysed as cross-sectional data. Risk factors examined were: socio-demographics, health status and medical conditions; medication use and health service factors. Analysis included univariate logistic regression to estimate unadjusted risk and multivariate logistic regression analysis to assess confounding and estimate adjusted risk.

Results

Self-reported medication side effects were reported by approximately 6.7% (67/1000) of the entire baseline MELSHA cohort, and by 8.5% (65/761) of those on medication. Identified risk factors were increased education level, co-morbidities and health service factors including recency of visiting the pharmacist, attending younger doctors, and their doctor's awareness of their medications. The greatest increase in risk for medication side effects was associated with liver problems and their doctor's awareness of their medications. Aging and gender were not risk factors.

Conclusion

Prevalence of self-reported medication side effects was comparable with that reported in adults attending General Practices in a primary care setting in Australia. The prevalence and identified risk factors provide further insight and opportunity to develop strategies to address the problem of medication side effects in older people living independently in the community setting.