Determinants of self-medication with antibiotics in Europe: the impact of beliefs, country wealth and the healthcare system

Larissa Grigoryan*, Johannes G. M. Burgerhof, John E. Degener, Reginald Deschepper, Cecilia Stalsby Lundborg, Dominique L. Monnet, Elizabeth A. Scicluna, Joan Birkin, Flora M. Haaijer-Ruskamp, SAR Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

154 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Self-medication with antibiotics occurs among the population in Europe, particularly in southern and eastern countries. We studied the impact of predisposing factors (e.g. attitudes and knowledge concerning antibiotic use and self-medication) and enabling factors (country wealth and healthcare system factors) on self-medication with antibiotics in Europe.

Methods: In this follow-up of a previous European survey, we interviewed a subsample of 1101 respondents. A multilevel analysis with two levels (respondent and country) was performed. Variables that were statistically significantly different between users and non-users of self-medication were considered for inclusion into the multilevel regression analyses.

Results: Predisposing factors included individual-level characteristics. High perceived appropriateness of self-medication with antibiotics for bronchitis and an attitude favouring antibiotic use for minor ailments were related to a higher likelihood of self-medication. Enabling factors included individual and country data. At the individual level, perceived availability of antibiotics without a prescription was related to increased probability of self-medication. At the country level, higher gross domestic product (wealth) and exact dispensation of prescribed tablet quantities by pharmacies were independently associated with lower likelihood of self-medication.

Conclusions: Interventions aimed at preventing self-medication should include public education, enforcing regulations regarding the sale of antibiotics, and implementing laws for dispensing exact prescribed tablet quantities in pharmacies. With the included determinants, we explained almost all the variance at the country level, but not at the individual level. Future studies to increase our understanding of determinants of self-medication with antibiotics should focus on individual-level factors such as doctor-patient relationships and patient satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1172-1179
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May-2008


  • antibacterial agents
  • epidemiological factors
  • drug resistance
  • bacterial
  • RISK

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