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Official statistics of Latvia
Official Statistics Portal of Latvia
Press release

Non-prescribed medicines are used by half of population of Latvia

Data of European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) conducted by the Central Statistical Bureau (CSB) show that medicines, vitamins or herbal medicines, not prescribed by a doctor, were used by 50 % of population of Latvia aged 15 and over, while prescribed medicines1 were used by 46,2 % of population. Over the past five years, the use of non-prescribed medicines has fallen by 4 percentage points, while the use of prescribed medicines has risen by 4.8 percentage points.

Females use medicine more often compare to males

Habits of using medicines differ notably between males and females.  Non-prescribed medicines are used by 58.9 % of females and 39.1 % of males (62.7 % and 43 % in 2014), while prescribed medicines are used by 54 % of females and 36.6 % of males (49.9 % and 30.7 % - in 2014).

As age of a person increases, consumption of prescribed medicines also increases

As age of persons increases, the share of the population who use prescribed medicines also increases. Prescribed medicines are used by 17.8 % of young people aged 15-24, while among seniors (aged 75 and over) the consumption is 4.8 times higher: prescribed medicines are used by 86.1 % of seniors. Over the year, the sharpest increase in the share of users of prescribed medicines is observed among the population in the age groups 45–54 and 55–64; from 42.8 % to 61 % or by 18.2 percentage points, while in the time period of five years the share of users of prescribed medicines has increased in all age groups except young people. The fastest growth in medication use is observed among seniors - from 79.1 % to 86.1 % or by 7 percentage points.

Most frequent users of the prescribed medicines are the elderly (mostly over the age of 65 - 80.3 %), the economically inactive (63.9 %), the population in low-income households (63.7 %), as well as the part of population, suffering from overweight (48.1 %) and obesity (68.1 %).

Non-prescribed medicines are used less

Unlike medicines prescribed by a doctor, the use of non-prescribed medicines is less affected by age. Among females, the use of medicines is evenly high in almost all age groups - about 60 %. For males, the rate ranges from 31.5 % (15-24 years) to 46 % (35-44 years). Compared to 2014, the use of non-prescribed medicines has decreased in all age groups, except for females aged 25–34 and males aged 35–44.

Non-prescribed medicines are most often used by people with higher education (58.2 %), employees (50.9 %), as well as people in wealthier households (53.4 %). In turn, the lowest rate of consumption is observed among the population with lower than basic education level (37.8 %), unemployed (48 %) and population in low-income households (46.8 %).

Non-prescribed medicines are mostly used in Riga, prescribed medicines - in Vidzeme

There are also regional differences in use patterns of non-prescribed medicines. Prescribed medicines are used more than the average in Vidzeme, Latgale and Riga regions of Latvia - 48.1 %, 47.8 % and 46.5 % of the total population, respectively, while the least in Zemgale - 43.8 % of the population.

In Riga, Kurzeme and Pierīga regions, more than half of the population uses non-prescribed medicines (53.7 %, 52.7 % and 50.2 %, respectively), while the least in Vidzeme region - 41.4 %, where prescribed medicines are most often used.

Frequency of non-prescribed and prescribed medications use in Latvia, by region

(as per cent)


Non-prescribed medicines

Prescribed medicines






















Almost one in ten residents could not afford to buy medicines prescribed by a doctor

In five years, the share of the population, not being able to afford to buy prescribed medicine has decreased by 4.5 percentage points. Last year, 8 % of residents of Latvia had a case when they could not afford to buy medicines prescribed by a doctor (10.3 % of females and 5.3 % of males). 60.1 % of the population could always pay for medicines prescribed by a doctor, while almost a third (31.9 %) did not need to buy medicines. The population aged 55 and over (11.9 %) and the lowest income population (19 %) were more likely to be unable to afford to buy medicines.

6 thousand residents of Latvia aged 15 and over were surveyed during the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) in 2019 – 2020, and their answers were generalized to all residents of the respective age. The survey clarified the well-being and subjective opinion of the population about their health, it gave a self-assessment of lifestyle, use and availability of health care services in relation to the socio-economic indicators of the population.

1Except for birth control pills and other contraceptive hormones.

Media requests:
Communication Section
Phone: +371 27880666

More information on data:
Anita Švarckopfa
Social Statistics Methodology Section
Phone: +371 67366648