Study Finds Almost Half of Patients Skip Medication

Young people and less educated among those with less understanding of their health condition, according to UK-wide survey.

Are patients receiving value in terms of health literacy?

Almost half of those with health conditions said that they skip their medication sometimes, despite knowing its benefits, while more than a quarter are unsure what to do if they experience side-effects, according to COUCH’s recently published report, "Are patients receiving value in terms of health literacy?"

How well people understand their treatment determines how well they manage their health, but some demographics have a lack of understanding of how to manage their health condition. For example, those with lower education levels and of mixed ethnicity are more likely to report having less confidence in managing their health.

This report underlines the importance for patients to have a good relationship with their HCP, whom they say can also help educate patients on where to seek reliable internet-based information.

Ash Rishi, Managing Director, COUCH Medical Communications

COUCH, the medical communications agency behind the report, set out to find if patients are getting value from their healthcare practitioner (HCP). This included providing patients with relevant information, ensuring they understand their illness and treatment, and furthermore, how to manage it.

Those of black ethnicity were the only group where some strongly disagreed that they understood side-effects of their medication.

Young people were also disproportionately affected when compared to other age groups, with more 19 to 24 year-olds reporting they don’t understand their health condition and how to manage it.

The survey also reveals a significant link between higher educational attainment and levels of health literacy, as higher educated participants reported a better understanding of their own health, as well as feeling more able to ask their doctor for clarification. Conversely, those with higher levels of education are also more likely to skip medication, possibly because of a, ‘perception that they are capable of self-diagnosis and medication’, the report states.

The survey goes on to conclude: "There is a clear link between ethnicity and educational status that cannot be ignored."

The likelihood of a person following medication guidelines correctly was also dependent on the condition they were managing. While at least half of those with mental health, respiratory, and musculoskeletal conditions reported skipping medication, no one with cancer reported doing so, suggesting a link between the life-shortening potential of a disease and a patients’ management of their treatment.

Participants also said HCPs are their first choice for healthcare information, followed by the internet.

COUCH’s report underlines the importance for patients to have a good relationship with their HCP, whom they say can also help educate patients on where to seek reliable internet-based information.

The report calls for more education targeting younger people, using approaches such as social media. It also states the importance for HCPs to understand the influence of age, ethnicity and educational background in forgetting to take medication.

The full report can be downloaded for free here:

Notes to editors:

Survey based on results of 253 people in the UK

The survey found that 87% of people use the internet to access health info, but 61% find it difficult to judge the reliability of the information they find online

74% of respondents said they knew what to do if they experience side-effects

87% said they can ask their doctor questions about information they don’t understand

Qualicis Research was involved in generating raw data and providing statistical analysis and interpretations for the report.

Please contact Ash Rishi via email at for more information, comment, or for a copy of the report.

Source: COUCH Medical Communications