Objective: Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines encourages individuals to search for or request advertised medicines, can stimulate taking medications rather than making lifestyle behaviour changes, and may target individuals with poorer demographic and socioeconomic status and riskier health-related behaviours. This study thus explored whether responses to medicine advertising vary as a function of lifestyle behaviours, and demographic and socioeconomic factors.
Methods: Data were collected through an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,057 adults in New Zealand. Multivariate binary logistic regressions were used to explore whether lifestyle behaviours, including nutritional habits, alcohol consumption, illegal drug consumption, physical activity, attitudes towards doing exercise, as well as demographic and socioeconomic status were associated with self-reported behavioural responses to medicine advertising.
Results: Individuals who had unhealthier lifestyle behaviours were more likely to respond to medicine advertising.
Conclusions: The findings raise concerns regarding the misuse or overuse of medications for diseases that may otherwise be improved by a healthier lifestyle.
Implications for public health: To improve public health and wellbeing of society, we call for regulatory changes regarding advertising of medicines. Where applicable, lifestyle changes should be advertised as potential substitutes for the advertised medicines. Interprofessional collaboration is also recommended to educate individuals and convey the value of health behaviour changes.