Publication Details

Gillespie, R. J., Mullan, J. & Harrison, L. (2019). Attitudes towards deprescribing and the influence of health literacy among older Australians. Primary Health Care Research & Development, 20 (e78), 1-11.



This study aimed to explore attitudes, beliefs and experiences regarding polypharmacy and discontinuing medications, or deprescribing, among community living older adults aged ≥65 years, using ≥5 medications. It also aimed to investigate if health literacy capabilities influenced attitudes and beliefs towards deprescribing. Background

Polypharmacy use is common among Australian older adults. However, little is known about their attitudes towards polypharmacy use or towards stopping medications. Previous studies indicate that health literacy levels tend to be lower in older adults, resulting in poor knowledge about medications. Methods

A self-administered survey was conducted using two previously validated tools; the Patients’ Attitude Towards Deprescribing (PATD) tool to measure attitudes towards polypharmacy use and deprescribing and the All Aspects of Health Literacy Scale (AAHLS) to measure functional, communicative and critical health literacy. Descriptive statistical analysis was conducted. Findings

The 137 responses showed that 80% thought all their medications were necessary and were comfortable with the number taken. Wanting to reduce the number of medications taken was associated with concerns about the amount taken (P<0.001), experiencing side effects (P<0.001), or believing that one or more medications were no longer needed (P<0.000). Those who were using ten or more medications were more likely to want to reduce the number taken (P=0.019). Most (88%) respondents would be willing to stop medication/s in the context of receiving this advice from their doctor. Willingness to consider stopping correlated with higher scores on the critical health literacy subscale (P<0.021) and overall AAHLS score (P<0.009). Those with higher scores on the overall AAHLS measure were more likely to report that they understood why their medications were prescribed (P<0.000) and were more likely to participate in decision-making (P=0.027). Opportunities to proactively consider deprescribing may be missed, as one third of the respondents could not recall a recent review of their medications.



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