A Nation of Pill Poppers

NEW YORK Americans aren’t very diligent about good-health basics like getting exercise and following a sensible diet. But they avidly consume pills and other items in an effort to improve their health or to cope with a medical condition. According to a Deloitte report released this month (based on October polling), 86 percent of adults regularly consume such products.

Sixty-five percent of the survey’s respondents said they take vitamins/minerals, 57 percent use prescription drugs, 38 percent over-the-counter medications and 20 percent nutritional or herbal supplements. By comparison, 44 percent said they’re “focusing on eating a healthy diet,” and 35 percent are exercising.

Among those who take prescription drugs, 52 percent report a regimen that includes three or more such medications; 24 percent take five or more. For all the ire people routinely express about the prices Big Pharma charges for its wares, a large majority (75 percent) “are confident their medications are effective.” Moreover, 73 percent believe they have “a good understanding of the risks and benefits of the prescriptions they take.”

Atop all the conventional medications Americans take, 19 percent of respondents said they treated a health problem with an “alternative approach or natural therapy” at some point in the past 12 months. Thirteen percent said they consulted an “alternative healthcare practitioner” during that period. Sixteen percent said they used the alternative/natural therapy as a supplement to a prescription drug they were taking; 9 percent used it as a substitute for a prescription drug. One potential problem: 19 percent of those who went the alternative/natural route didn’t bother telling their doctor they’d done so, and another 14 percent weren’t sure whether their doctor knew about it.