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Short Communication

Prevalence, characteristics, and cost of selftreatment in the middle-aged and elderly:

observations from Henan, China
Y. Jiang a,d, Y. Wang a,d, Y. Li a, X. Wang a, C. Ma b,**, S. Ma a,c,*

School of Statistics and The Center for Applied Statistics, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China
Humanities and Social Science College, Beijing Institute of Petrochemical Technology, Daxing, Beijing, China
School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

article info
Article history:
Received 20 June 2014
Received in revised form
26 December 2014
Accepted 1 February 2015
Available online 12 March 2015

When facing illness, a person may choose from hospitalbased treatment and self-treatment. Self-treatment refers to
the scenario where a person uses unprescribed drugs or other
approaches to cope with illness conditions. It differs from selfcare and self-medication.1 Self-treatment remains an important approach for illness management, especially in Asia. The
goal of this study is to provide an updated description of selftreatment for the middle-aged and elderly (45 years old and
above) in China. Some relevant studied in the literature have
been focused on self-medication, behavioural factors associated with seeking self-treatment, and very specific subject
groups. This study differs from them by investigating selfmedication as well as other treatment approaches, by

investigating not only pursuit but also characteristics and

cost, and by studying the middle-aged and elderly who have
worse health conditions and demand more attention. In
addition, data on micro and personal characteristics were
collected using a survey. Such data provide complementary
information to that in governmental databases.
The survey study was approved by a research ethics review
committee at the Renmin University of China (RUC) and
conducted in August 2013. All samples were collected from
three cities, Luoyang, Jiaozuo, and Xinyang, in the Henan
province, which is one of the highly-populated, agriculturedominating, and least-developed areas in China. The first part
of survey collected demographic and personal information,
and the second part collected information on self-treatment
in a period of twelve months, including prevalence, illness
conditions, treatment approaches, reasons for pursuing selftreatments, and cost. A total of 1464 subjects finished survey, and the response rate was 68%. Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted on prevalence, characteristics, and cost, using S-Plus Version 8.2.

1215 subjects had at least one self-treatment during twelve
months, and 504 had more than five. Multi-variate logistic
regression was conducted on whether a subject had at least

* Corresponding author. School of Public Health, Yale University, 60 College ST, LEPH 206, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. Tel.: 1 203 785
3119; fax: 1 203 785 6912.
** Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (C. Ma), (S. Ma).
These authors contributed equally to this work.
0033-3506/ 2015 The Royal Society for Public Health. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.