Older adults and antibiotics: Study shows healthy attitudes but unhealthy practices

February 18, 2021

While most adults over 50 understand that overuse of antibiotics is a problem, and say they're cautious about taking the drugs, a sizable minority have used antibiotics for something other than their original purpose, and appear to think the drugs could help treat colds, which are caused by viruses not bacteria.

These findings, contained in a new paper in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, come from a national poll of people between the ages of 50 and 80 carried out as part of the National Poll on Healthy Aging.

The authors, from the University of Michigan's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, say their findings highlight the importance of careful guidance from health care providers to older adults, about the proper use and disposal of antibiotics prescribed to outpatients.

The paper expands on the findings first shared in an NPHA report in late 2019. The national poll included responses from more than 2,200 adults who were asked if they had received a prescription for an antibiotic at least once in the last two years, and also about their past practices before the two-year window.

Key data from the new paper:
-end-
The poll, based at IHPI, is supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan's academic medical center. The study's authors are NPHA director Preeti Malani, M.D. and associate directors Jeffrey Kullgren, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., and Erica Solway, Ph.D., M.S.W., M.P.H., as well as poll team members Matthias Kirch, M.S. and Dianne Singer, M.P.H.

Reference: Use and perceptions of antibiotics among US adults aged 50-80 years, Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/ice.2021.19

Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

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