Prescriptions, Visits to Doctor Up

Elderly, Baby Boomers Lead Upward Trend in Office Visits

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 27, 2004 -- Chalk it up to America's aging population.

Americans are increasingly heading to their doctors' offices, and they're also getting more prescriptions, the CDC says.

The CDC's National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey tracks medical care given in doctors' offices. Its latest report focuses on data from 2002.

Americans made an estimated 890 million visits to office-based doctors in 2002, a 17% increase since 1992.

Baby boomers and seniors led that trend. Among people aged 45 and older, doctors visits increased by 14% between 1995 and 2002.

Those appointments yielded more prescriptions than in years past. In 2002, a total of 1.3 billion prescriptions were written -- 25% more than a decade earlier.

The reason? More people now take several prescriptions, says the CDC.

Leading the list of prescription drugs were nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These drugs are used commonly to treat arthritis and pain. Other commonly prescribed medications included antidepressants and antihistamines. All were prescribed more than in 1995, and antidepressant prescriptions were up 124% for children in that time frame.

Most doctor visits (62%) were with primary care specialists such as general practitioners, internists, family physicians, obstetricians, and gynecologists.

Nineteen percent were with surgical specialists; 17% were with medical specialists such as dermatologists.

Whites visited their doctors more than blacks or Asians, and women saw their doctors more than men in all age groups except for people younger than 15.

High blood pressure, common cold, sore throat, diabetes, and arthritis/joint diseases were the most common diagnoses in 2002, reports the CDC.

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SOURCES: "National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2002 Summary," CDC. News release, CDC. Reuters.
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