Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medicine and BioMed Central.

Journal App

google play app store
Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Self-prescribing among young Norwegian doctors: a nine-year follow-up study of a nationwide sample

Erlend Hem*, Guro Stokke, Reidar Tyssen, Nina T Grønvold, Per Vaglum and Øivind Ekeberg

Author Affiliations

Department of Behavioural Sciences in Medicine, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1111 Blindern, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medicine 2005, 3:16  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-3-16

Published: 21 October 2005

Abstract

Background

Self-prescribing among doctors is common, but no longitudinal studies have documented this issue. We studied the self-prescribing behaviour among young Norwegian physicians and the predictors of self-prescribing.

Methods

We conducted a nationwide, prospective and longitudinal study following young Norwegian physicians from internship through the subsequent nine years using three postal questionnaires. Chi-square tests and logistic regression models were applied.

Results

About 54% of the physicians in their fourth and ninth postgraduate years had self-prescribed medication at least once during the previous year. Among those who had used prescription medication during the previous year, about 90% had self-prescribed. Self-prescribing behaviour did not differ significantly between men and women, or according to the type of work at any time. The most frequently self-prescribed medications were antibiotics (71%–81%), contraceptives (24%–25%), analgesics (18%–21%), and hypnotics (9%–12%). Those who had needed treatment for mental problems had self-prescribed hypnotics and sedatives to a greater extent than the others. Being male, having self-prescribed during internship, somatic complaints, mental distress, subjective health complaints, and not having sought help from a general practitioner, were significant adjusted predictors of self-prescribing in the ninth postgraduate year.

Conclusion

The level of self-prescribing among young Norwegian physicians is relatively high, and this behaviour is established early in their professional lives. Although self-prescribing is acceptable in some situations, physicians should seek professional help for illness. Efforts to inculcate more rational help-seeking behaviour should probably start in medical schools.