13 September 2007
Key findings from a global health survey conducted by The Nielsen Company has found that headaches, colds, sleeping problems, and backaches are the most common ailments of the world’s consumers. In an industry estimated to be worth over US$70 billion, consumers are loyal and habitual purchasers of over-the-counter (OTC) self-medication products to treat their condition.
According to Nielsen, headaches are the most common complaint for consumers around the world – and may explain why analgesics are the largest category in the OTC market. Nearly half of those polled in the online survey (42%) claimed to have suffered a headache in the last four weeks, while one in three had suffered a cold, back problem or sleeping problem. One in five suffered from a cough, sore throat, stomach upset or some other kind of pain.
In Singapore, the three most suffered ailments by locals are headaches (43%), flu (38%), and sore throat (37%). In fact, when compared to the rest of the world, Singaporeans appear to be especially prone to sore throat and flu—close to four in 10 said they suffered from either of these ailments in the past month; ranking them first and second respectively on a global scale. On the other hand, 14 percent of the population claimed to be in the pink of health, with no complaints of any sickness contracted recently.
The Nielsen Company’s 47-country survey also revealed diverse regional differences among populations and their health problems. EEMEA and Latin American consumers suffer more headaches, with more than half in these regions said they had suffered a headache within the last month. Asians (36%) were more susceptible to catching colds than any other region and are more likely to suffer from sore throats, coughs, stomach pain and toothache than they would a back problem, unlike those in North America and Latin America.
Within Asia Pacific, the Nielsen study uncovered an interesting phenomenon - where China has the world’s highest incidence of insomniacs, with four in 10 Chinese claiming to have suffered sleeping problems in the past month. Singaporeans led the world with 37 percent suffering from a sore throat; a third of Filipinos were coughing more than anyone else; and Indonesians topped the world with 44 percent suffering flu in the past four weeks.
At the other end of the scale, Indians, Japanese and Portuguese were the healthiest consumers, with one in four claiming not to have suffered any health ailments at all in the past month.
What do people do when they fell ill?
Nielsen polled 26,486 internet users in 47 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East at the end of April this year. Nearly half (42%) said they reached for their usual ‘tried and tested’ medication at home during times of ill health, and one in three either saw their doctor or visited a pharmacy in search of an over-the-counter recommendation.
Some one in 10 Singaporeans (11%) chose to ‘let nature take its course’ by not using any remedy to treat their ailment, while close to half (47%) would go see a doctor—this ranked Singaporeans second globally, after Hong Kong (51%) with the most people knocking on the doctors’ doors whenever they experience any health discomfort.
The survey findings reflect some regional differences in the way consumers treat their ailments. In North America, consumers are more likely to seek out pharmacies than visit their doctor. In Europe and Asia, a visit to the doctor came ahead of reaching for non-prescription medication and home remedies. Meanwhile, people in Scandinavia and Asia Pacific are also more likely to ‘grin and bare it’ – about one third in Denmark (36%), Norway (33%) and Taiwan (28%) led the global rankings for taking ‘nothing at all’ to cure their health complaint.
The Nielsen survey also indicates that once a consumer wants to purchase a non-prescription medicine, experience with the product/brand always counts. Overwhelmingly, the most loyal consumers of OTC/self medication products are Asians – over 80 percent of Hong Kong, Singaporean and Chinese consumers say they always buy the same ‘tried and tested’ products. Two-thirds of North Americans (68%) also say they always buy the same brand of self-medication. The other factors influenced what consumers did when they fell ill were reliance on medical professionals; and deeply rooted cultural ‘home remedies’ – especially in Central and Eastern European countries and throughout Asia.
It is worth noting that while one in five global consumers (19%) said they were influenced by advertising or a friend’s recommendation when trying new OTC medications, people in Asia rely on OTC advertising more than any other region when making their decisions, led by China, with 39 percent of Chinese consumers - the world’s highest - saying their self-medication purchasing decisions are influenced by ads.
Singaporeans tend to go for the tried-and-tested method when self-medicating in times of sickness, with over four in five (83%) claiming to take a product they always used, rather than relying on other information sources such as pharmacist (49%), friends (34%), and advertising (21%).
For the full report, click here.
Back to Top