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

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BMC Medicine

, 3:16

First Online: 21 October 2005Received: 22 July 2005Accepted: 21 October 2005DOI: 10.1186-1741-7015-3-16

Cite this article as: Hem, E., Stokke, G., Tyssen, R. et al. BMC Med 2005 3: 16. doi:10.1186-1741-7015-3-16


BackgroundSelf-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.

MethodsWe 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.

ResultsAbout 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.

ConclusionThe 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.

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Author: Erlend Hem - Guro Stokke - Reidar Tyssen - Nina T Grønvold - Per Vaglum - Øivind Ekeberg


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