Open Access Open Badges Research article

Predictive factors of self-medicated analgesic use in Spanish adults: a cross-sectional national study

Pilar Carrasco-Garrido1*, Ana López de Andrés1, Valentín Hernández Barrera1, Isabel Jiménez-Trujillo1, César Fernandez-de-las-Peñas2, Domingo Palacios-Ceña3, Soledad García-Gómez-Heras4 and Rodrigo Jiménez-García1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Rey Juan Carlos University, Avda. Atenas s/n., Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain

2 Department of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine, Rey Juan Carlos University, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain

3 Department of Nursing, Rey Juan Carlos University, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain

4 Department of Human Histology and Pathological Anatomy, Rey Juan Carlos University, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology 2014, 15:36  doi:10.1186/2050-6511-15-36

Published: 8 July 2014



Analgesics are among the most commonly consumed drugs by the world populations. Within the broader context of self-medication, pain relief occupies a prominent position. Our study was to ascertain the prevalence of self-medication with analgesics among the Spanish population and to identify predictors of self-medication, including psychological disorders, psychological dysfunction, mental health status, and sociodemographic and health-related variables.


We used individualized secondary data retrieved from the 2009 European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) for Spain to conduct a nationwide, descriptive, cross-sectional pharmacoepidemiology study on self-medication with analgesics among adults (individuals aged at least 16 years) of both genders living in Spain. A total of 7,606 interviews were analysed. The dichotomous dependent variables chosen were the answers “yes” or “no” to the question In the last 2 weeks have you taken the medicines not prescribed for you by a doctor for joint pain, headache, or low back pain?” Independent variables were sociodemographic, comorbidity, and healthcare resources.


A total of 7,606 individuals reported pain in any of the locations (23.7%). In addition, analgesic consumption was self-prescribed in 23.7% (1,481) of these subjects. Forty percent (40.1%) of patients self-medicated for headache, 15.1% for low back pain, and 6.7% for joint pain. The variables significantly associated with a greater likelihood of self-medication of analgesics, independently of pain location were: age 16–39 years (2.36 < AOR < 3.68), higher educational level (1.80 < AOR <2.21), psychological disorders (1.56 < AOR < 1.98), and excellent/good perception of health status (1.74 < AOR < 2.68). In subjects suffering headache, self-prescription was associated with male gender (AOR 2.13) and absence of other comorbid condition (AOR 4.65).


This pharmacoepidemiology study constitutes an adequate approach to analgesic self-medication use in the Spanish population, based on a representative nationwide sample. Self-prescribed analgesic consumption was higher in young people with higher educational level, higher income, smoker, and with psychological disorders and with a good perception of their health status independently of the location of pain.