Assessment of health seeking behaviour and self-medication among general public in the state of Penang, Malaysia


Background: Patients’ behaviour in making decisions regarding health is currently changing from passive recipients to recipients who play an active role in taking action to control their health and taking self-care initiatives.

Objectives: This study was conducted to evaluate the health seeking behaviour among general public and its associated factors; and to evaluate the medicine taking behaviour in public and the practice of self-medication.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was undertaken among general public in Penang Island, Malaysia. A convenience sampling of 888 participants successfully completed the survey. Self-administered questionnaires were distributed among the residents in the north east of Penang Island.

Results: This study showed that most of the participants chose to consult the physician when they experience any health problems (66.7%), followed by self-medication (20.9%). The first action for consulting the physician was significantly predicted by Malay respondents and retired people (OR 3.05, 95% CI 1.04-8.89). The prevalence of self-medication was 54%. The practice of self-medication was significantly associated with Chinese participants, educated people, people with alone living status and people with more self-care orientation.

Conclusion: Increasing the awareness of the public about the rational choice of getting medical assistance is a very important issue to control their health. A health education program is needed to increase the awareness about the use of medicines among the general public and to enable them to make the right decisions relating to health problems.


Download data is not yet available.


1. Lu Y, Hernandez P, Abegunde D, Edejer T. The world medicines situation. Geneva: WHO; 2011.

2. European Association of Hospital Pharmacists. Medicine shortages in European hospitals. Brussels: EAHP; 2013.

3. Azmi M, Akmal S, Chua G. A national survey on the use of medicines (NSUM) by Malaysian consumers. Selangor: Quality Use of Medicines, Pharmaceutical Services Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2013.

4. Coulter A, Parsons S, Askham J. Where are the patients in decision-making about their own care. Geneva: WHO; 2008.

5. Azhar MIM, Gunasekaran K, Kadirvelu A, Gurtu S, Sadasivan S, Kshatriya BM. Self-medication: Awareness and Attitude among Malaysian Urban Population. Int J Collab Res Intern Med Public Health. 2013;5:436-443.

6. Kroeger A. Anthropological and socio-medical health care research in developing countries. Soc Sci Med. 1983;17(3):147-161.

7. Hausmann-Muela S, Ribera JM, Nyamongo I. Health-seeking behaviour and the health system response. Available at: (acessed 5 April 2018).

8. Andersen RM. National health surveys and the behavioral model of health services use. Med Care. 2008;46(7):647-653. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e31817a835d

9. Andersen R, Davidson P. Improving Access to Care in America: Individual and Contextual indicators. In: Kominski GF, ed. Changing the US Health Care System: Key Issues in Health Services Policy and Management (3rd ed) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2007.

10. Abdo-Rabbo A, Al-Ansari M, Gunn BC, Suleiman BJ. The use of medicines in Oman: public knowledge, attitudes and practices. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal. 2009;9:124.

11. Stewart DC, George J, Bond CM, Cunningham IT, Diack HL, McCaig DJ. Exploring patients’ perspectives of pharmacist supplementary prescribing in Scotland. Pharm World Sci. 2008;30(6):892-897. doi: 10.1007/s11096-008-9248-x

12. Chua S, Sabki N. Use of nonprescription medications by the general public in the Klang Valley. J Appl Pharm Sci. 2011;1:93.

13. Major C, Vincze Z. Consumer habits and interests regarding non-prescription medications in Hungary. Fam Pract. 2010;27(3):333-338. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmp105

14. Calamusa A, Di Marzio A, Cristofani R, Arrighetti P, Santaniello V, Alfani S, Carducci A. Factors that influence Italian consumers’ understanding of over-the-counter medicines and risk perception. Patient Educ Couns. 2012;87(3):395-401. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.10.003

15. MDG Gap Task Force. Delivering on the Global Partnership for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: New York: UN; 2008.

16. Sawalha AF. A descriptive study of self-medication practices among Palestinian medical and nonmedical university students. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2008;4(2):164-172. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2007.04.004

17. Hassali MA, Shafie AA, Al-Qazaz H, Tambyappa J, Palaian S, Hariraj V. Self-medication practices among adult population attending community pharmacies in Malaysia: an exploratory study. Int J Clin Pharm. 2011;33(5):794-799. doi: 10.1007/s11096-011-9539-5

18. Pharmaceutical Services Division. A National Survey on the Use of Medicines (NSUM) by Malaysian Consumers 2015.: Ministry of Health Malaysia. Available at: (acesed 19 October 2016).

19. Yousif M. In-home drug storage and utilization habits: a Sudanese study. East Mediterr Health J. 2002;8(2-3):422-431.

20. Abidin SIZ, Latif Y, Razak BT, Latif JY. Prevalence and determinants of appropriate health seeking behaviour among known diabetics: results from a community-based survey. Advances in Epidemiology. 2014;2014:1-7. doi: 10.1155/2014/793286

21. Daban F, Pasarín MI, Rodríguez-Sanz M, García-Altés A, Villalbí JR, Zara C, Borrell C. Social determinants of prescribed and non-prescribed medicine use. Int J Equity Health. 2010;9:12. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-9-12

22. Morgan TK, Williamson M, Pirotta M, Stewart K, Myers SP, Barnes J. A national census of medicines use: a 24-hour snapshot of Australians aged 50 years and older. Med J Aust. 2012;196(1):50-53.

23. Antonov K, Isacson D. Prescription and nonprescription analgesic use in Sweden. Ann Pharmacother. 1998;32(4):485-494. doi: 10.1345/aph.16409

24. Dawood OT, Hassali MA, Saleem F. A qualitative study exploring medicines use pattern and practice among general public in Malaysia. Pharm Pract (Granada). 2016;14(2):740. doi: 10.18549/PharmPract.2016.02.740

25. Kesselheim AS, Stedman MR, Bubrick EJ, Gagne JJ, Misono AS, Lee JL, Brookhart MA, Avorn J, Shrank WH. Seizure outcomes following the use of generic versus brand-name antiepileptic drugs. Drugs. 2010;70(5):605-621. doi: 10.2165/10898530-000000000-00000

26. Klemenc-Ketiš Z, Kersnik J. The effect of demographic characteristics on self-medication patterns: a cross-sectional nationwide study from Slovenia. Coll Antropol. 2011;35(4):1237-1242.

27. Loyola Filho AL, Lima-Costa MF, Uchôa E. Bambuí Project: a qualitative approach to self-medication. Cad Saude Publica. 2004;20(6):1661-1669. doi: 10.1590/s0102-311x2004000600025

28. Klemenc-Ketis Z, Hladnik Z, Kersnik J. Self-medication among healthcare and non-healthcare students at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Med Princ Pract. 2010;19(5):395-401. doi: 10.1159/000316380

29. Ali SE, Ibrahim MI, Palaian S. Medication storage and self-medication behaviour amongst female students in Malaysia. Pharm Pract (Granada). 2010 Oct;8(4):226-232. doi: 10.4321/s1886-36552010000400004

30. Machado-Alba JE, Echeverri-Cataño LF, Londoño-Builes MJ, Moreno-Gutiérrez PA, Ochoa-Orozco SA, Ruiz-Villa JO. Social, cultural and economic factors associated with self-medication. Biomedica. 2014;34(4):580-588. doi: 10.1590/S0120-41572014000400011
How to Cite
DAWOOD, Omar T. et al. Assessment of health seeking behaviour and self-medication among general public in the state of Penang, Malaysia. Pharmacy Practice, [S.l.], v. 15, n. 3, p. 991, sep. 2017. ISSN 1886-3655. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 17 oct. 2017.
Original Research


Self Medication; Attitude to Health; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Physicians; Pharmacists; Surveys and Questionnaires; Malaysia

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>