Open Access Research article

Can gender difference in prescription drug use be explained by gender-related morbidity?: a study on a Swedish population during 2006

Jessica Skoog1*, Patrik Midlöv1, Lars Borgquist2, Jan Sundquist13 and Anders Halling14

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences in Malmö, Center for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University, SE-205 02 Malmö, Sweden

2 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, General Practice, Linköping University, SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden

3 Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA

4 Research Unit for General Practice, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, J.B. Winsløws Vej 9A, DK-5000 Odense C, Denmark

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:329  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-329

Published: 8 April 2014



It has been reported that there is a difference in drug prescription between males and females. Even after adjustment for multi-morbidity, females tend to use more prescription drugs compared to males. In this study, we wanted to analyse whether the gender difference in drug treatment could be explained by gender-related morbidity.


Data was collected on all individuals 20 years and older in the county of Östergötland in Sweden. The Johns Hopkins ACG Case-Mix System was used to calculate individual level of multi-morbidity. A report from the Swedish National Institute of Public Health using the WHO term DALY was the basis for gender-related morbidity. Prescription drugs used to treat diseases that mainly affect females were excluded from the analyses.


The odds of having prescription drugs for males, compared to females, increased from 0.45 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.44-0.46) to 0.82 (95% CI 0.81-0.83) after exclusion of prescription drugs that are used to treat diseases that mainly affect females.


Gender-related morbidity and the use of anti-conception drugs may explain a large part of the difference in prescription drug use between males and females but still there remains a difference between the genders at 18%. This implicates that it is of importance to take the gender-related morbidity into consideration, and to exclude anti-conception drugs, when performing studies regarding difference in drug use between the genders.

Prescription drugs; Multi-morbidity; Gender difference; Gender-related morbidity