Knowledge and sources of information about medicines among adolescents in Malta

Main Article Content

Rita Darmanin Ellul
Maria Cordina
Anton Buhagiar
Anthony Fenech
Janet Mifsud


Adolescent, Consumer Health Information, Knowledge, Malta


Objective: To investigate knowledge of medicines and sources of information about medicines among adolescents in Malta.

Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was used to survey knowledge of medicines and information sources among adolescents attending secondary schools in Malta. A random stratified sample design generated a sample size of 514 students. Knowledge of medicines was investigated by questions that included topics about the efficacy of medicines, proper communication during a medical consultation, the safety of medicines, antibiotic use and pictograms.

Results: The analytical sample, of which 53.8% were girls, was made up of 474 students, aged 14-16 years. The students obtained a mean score of 22.92 points (SD = 4.31) out of a maximum of 32 points for medicine knowledge. More than 30.0% of the respondents did not mark the correct answer for 40.6% of the questions that investigated knowledge of medicines. The family physician, community pharmacist and parents were the sources of information that were mostly cited. A proportion of 4.4% had obtained information from the teacher. A quarter of the respondents (24.7%) had obtained information from friends/schoolmates, young relatives or the media, generally television (17.3%).

Conclusion: Although the level of knowledge about medicines among this study sample of Maltese students was good, there appeared to be particular misconceptions with regard to important aspects associated with the proper use of medicines. These findings highlight the need to educate adolescents about the proper use of medicines. The most important information providers about medicines appeared to be the physician, pharmacist and parents. It is being suggested that education campaigns should be organized in order to help parents guide adolescents on how to use medicines appropriately. In addition, adolescents would benefit if more information about the proper use of medicines would be disseminated by means of television programs and school-based health education curricula.


Download data is not yet available.
Abstract 1069 | PDF Downloads 684


1. Schirm E, van den Berg P, Gebben H, Sauet P, de Jong-van den Berg L. Drug use of children in the community assessed through pharmacy dispensing data. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2000;50(5):473-478.

2. Dengler R, Roberts H. Adolescents' use of prescribed drugs and over-the-counter preparations. J Public Health Med. 1996;18(4):437-442.

3. Campbell A, McGrath PJ. Use of medication by adolescents for the management of menstrual discomfort. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(9):905-913.

4. Chambers CT, Graham JR, McGrath PJ, Finley A. Self-administration of over-the-counter medication for pain among adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(5):449-555.

5. Darmanin Ellul R, Cordina M, Buhagiar A, Fenech A, Mifsud J. Health complaints and use of medicines among adolescents in Malta. Pharm Pract [Internet]. 2008; 6(3): 165-170.

6 Geissler PW, Nokes K, Prince RJ, Achieng Odhiambo R, Aagaard-Hansen J, Ouma JH. Children and medicines: self-treatment of common illnesses among Luo schoolchildren in western Kenya. Soc Sci Med. 2000;50(12):1771-1783.

7. Lau TF, Yu A, Cheung JCK, Leung SF. Studies on common illnesses and medical care utilization patterns of adolescents in Hong Kong. J Adolesc Health. 2000;27(6):443-452.

8. Stoelben S, Krappweis J, Rossler G, Kirch W. Adolescents' drug use and drug knowledge. Eur J Pediatr. 2000;159(8):608-614.

9. Geckova A, Tuinstra J, Pudelsky M, Kovarova M, van Dijk JP, Groothoff JW, Post D. Self-reported health problems of Slovak adolescents. J Adolesc. 2001;24(5):635-645.

10. Hansen EH, Holstein BE, Due P, Currie CE. International survey of self-reported medicine use among adolescents. Pediatrics. 2003;37(3):361-366.

11. Abahussain E, Matowe LE, Nicholls PJ. Self-reported medication use among adolescents in Kuwait. Med Princ Pract. 2005;14(3):161-164.

12. da Silva C, Giugliani ER. Consumption of medicines among adolescent students: a concern. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2004;80(4):326-332.

13. Iannotti RJ, Bush PJ. The development of autonomy in children's health behaviours. In: Sussman EJ, Feagans W, Ray W, editors. Emotion, Cognition, Health and Development in Children and Adolescents. New York: Erlbaum; 1989. p. 53-74.

14. Geissler PW, Meinert L, Prince R, Nokes C, Aagaard-Hansen J, Jitta J, Ouma JH. Self-treatment by Kenyan and Ugandan schoolchildren and the need for school-based education. Health Policy Plan. 2001;16(4):362-371.

15. Hameen-Anttila K, Juvonen M, Ahonen R, Bush PJ, Airaksinen M. How well can children understand medicine related topics? Patient Educ Couns. 2006;60(2):171-178.

16. Menacker F, Aramburuzabala P, Minian N, Bush PJ, Bibace R. Children and Medicines: What they want to know and how they want to learn. J Soc Adm Pharm. 1999(1);16:38-52.

17. Sloand B, MacLeod KM, Vessey JA. Children and self-medication: implications for primary care. Pediatr Nurs. 1997;23(6):601-605.

18. Bush PJ. Let's teach children about medicines. International Pharmacy Journal. 1990;4(5):208-211.

19. Due P, Lynch J, Holstien B, Modvig J. Socioeconomic health inequalities among a nationally representative sample of Danish adolescents: the role of different types of social relations. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2003;57:692-698.

20. Research and methodology unit. Census of population and housing 2005: Preliminary report. Malta: National statistics office; 2006.

21. HBSC focus groups. International standard version of 2001/02 HBSC mandatory questionnaire. In: Currie C, Samdal O, Smith B, editors. Health behaviour in school-aged children: a World Health Organization cross-national study. Research protocol for the 2001/02 Survey. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh; 2001. p. 213-234.

22. Boyce W, Dallago L. Socioeconomic inequality. In: Currie C, Roberts C, Morgan A, Smith R, Settertobulte W, Samdal O, Barnekow Rasmussen V, editors. Young people’s health in context. Health behaviour in school-aged children (HBSC): international report from the 2001/2002 survey. Copenhagen: World Health Organisation; 2004. p. 13-25.

23. USP Ad Hoc Advisory Panel on Children and Medicines. Guide to developing and evaluating medicine education. Programs and materials for children and adolescents. [Internet]. US:USP;1998 [cited 2004 Nov 6]. 39p.Available from:

24. McPherson A. and Macfarlane A. Quizzes and surveys. Ask about medicines. [Internet]. London:Teenage Websites Ltd;2003 [cited 2005 Nov 2]. Available from:

25. Hildebrand JR. TeensHealth:Understanding medications and what they do. [Internet]. US:Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media;2003 [cited 2005 Dec 4]. Available from:

26. Gray N, McPherson A, MacFarlane A. ‘Ask About Medicines’: An online quiz for adolescents. [Internet]. UK:Health Services Research and Pharmacy Practice. 2005 [cited 2005 Jan 11]. Available from:

27. Schickedanz JA, Schickedanz DI, Forsyth PD, Forsyth PA. Understanding children and adolescents. 3rd ed. Boston:Allyn and Bacon; 1998.

28. Gilbertson RJ, Harris E, Pandey SK, Kelly P, Myers W. Paracetamol use, availability, and knowledge of toxicity among British and American adolescents. Arch Dis Child. 1996;75(3):194-198.

29. Huott MA, Storrow AB. A survey of adolescents' knowledge regarding toxicity of over-the-counter medications. Acad Emerg Med. 1997;4(3):214-218.

30. Holstein BE, Hansen EH, Due P, Almarsdottir AB. Self-reported medicine use among 11- to 15- year-old girls and boys in Denmark 1988 -1998. Scand J Public Health. 2003;31:334-341.

31. Sanz EJ, Bush PJ, Garcia M. Medicines at home: the contents of medicine cabinets in eight countries. In: Bush PJ, Trakas DJ, Sanz EJ, Wirsing RL, Vaskilampi T, Prout A, editors. Children, Medicines and Culture. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press; 1996.p. 77-104.

32. Allotey P, Reidpath D, Elisha D. "Social medication" and the control of children: a qualitative study of over-the-counter medication among Australian children. Pediatrics. 2004; 114(3):378-383.

33. Bauchner H, Pelton SI, Klein JO. Parents, physicians and antibiotic use. Pediatrics. 1999;103(2): 395-401.

34. Pechere JC. Patients' interviews and misuse of antibiotics. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;33(3): 170-173.

35. Bush PJ, Ozias JM, Walson PD, Ward RM. Ten guiding principles for teaching children and adolescents about medicines. Clin Ther. 1999;21(7):1280-1284.

36. Cordina M, McElnay JC, Hughes CM, Fenech AG. Health-related issues of importance to school children with asthma - a qualitative study. J Soc Adm Pharm. 2002;19(5):162-169.

37. Van den Bulck J, Leemans L, Laekeman GM. Television and adolescent use of over-the-counter analgesic agents. Ann Pharmacother. 2005;39(1):58-62.

38. Gray NJ, Klein JD, Noyce PR, Sesselberg TS, Cantrill JA. Health information-seeking behaviour in adolescence. Soc Sci Med. 2005; 60(7):1467-1478.

39. Population and social statistics unit. Demography review 2004: population and social conditions. Malta: National statistics unit; 2005.

40. Kitzinger J. Qualitative research: introducing focus groups. BMJ. 1995;311:299-302.

Most read articles by the same author(s)