Health in Switzerland, consumption of medicines and painkillers on the rise

by | 29 Jan 2024 | Health

In 2022, more than half of the population (55 percent) took a medicine for a period of seven days. Medication consumption has been steadily increasing for 30 years. That of painkillers, in particular, rose from 12 percent in 1992 to 26 percent in 2022.

One-quarter of the population experienced severe physical discomfort in the four weeks prior to the survey, and one-third presented sleep disturbances. These are the results published by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) in the new standard tables on the Swiss Health Survey.


Detailed results of the Swiss Health Survey are disclosed in the form of standard tables. These 110 tables contain information on topics related to health behavior, health status as well as the use of health system services by the population residing in Switzerland aged 15 and older. Several examples of the varied results of the health survey are presented in this press release.

Still increasing consumption of medicines

In 2022, 55% of the population took a medicine in the seven days prior to the survey. The consumption of medicine has continuously increased throughout the observation period: the share increased from 38% in 1992 to 50% in 2017. Women (59%) take medicine more frequently than men (51%).

The proportion of people taking medication increases with age, reaching 86 percent for those aged 75 and older. 26% of the population has taken a painkiller and 9% a psychotropic drug such as an antidepressant, tranquilizer, or sleeping pill. The share of psychotropic drugs has remained stable since 2007, while that of painkillers has increased over time (1992: 12 percent; 2007: 20 percent).

Health in Switzerland | One in three people suffer from sleep disorders

Sleep is a fundamental biological function that is necessary for a person’s well-being. However, sleep problems are widespread; in fact, one-third of the population suffers from them: 7% have pathological disorders and 26% have moderate disorders.

Sleep disorders occur differently in the population: they are more common in women (37%) than in men (29%). They also increase with advancing age. Compared with 1997 (28%) and also 2017 (29%), the prevalence of sleep problems has increased in 2022 (33%).

General weakness and back pain widely prevalent

In 2022, the vast majority of the population rated their health (85%) as good or very good. Nonetheless, 25 percent suffered serious physical ailments in the four weeks prior to the survey. These disorders are partly caused by psychosocial features of living conditions, such as stress.

Among physical ailments, however, the most common are general weakness (46 percent) and back or kidney pain (45 percent). Women most frequently report feeling general weakness (54 percent), while among men the most common complaint is back pain (40 percent). Since 1992, these physical ailments have increased.

Decreased use of the contraceptive pill

In 2022, condoms and the pill were the most commonly used contraceptive methods in the under-35 age group. However, a departure from the pill is outlined, to which other contraceptive methods, such as the IUD or condom, are preferred. Since 2002, the share of young adults using the pill has almost halved: among 15- to 24-year-olds from 43% in 2002 to 24% in 2022; among 25- to 34-year-olds from 39% to 20%.

Increased drug use among young people

In the 12 months preceding the survey, 8 percent of the population aged 15 to 64 had used drugs; the highest frequency of use was among people younger than 35. For example, 18% of 15- to 24-year-olds and 12% of 25- to 34-year-olds have consumed cannabis in the past 12 months. Compared with 2017 or 2002, the shares have remained about the same.

Since 2002, however, the use of hard drugs (i.e., heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, speed, etc.) has increased. In 2022, 3% of 15- to 24-year-olds and 4% of 25- to 34-year-olds reported having used hard drugs in the previous 12 months (1% in 2002 for each age group). Cocaine use in particular is on the rise among these age groups.

63% of 15- to 24-year-olds wear or have had to wear dental braces

In 2022, 71% of the population rated their tooth and gum condition as good or very good. The condition of teeth and gums deteriorates with advancing age. In 2022, the share of people wearing prostheses (crowns, bridges, dentures, or implants) was 40 percent, a continuous decline since 2002, when it stood at 53 percent.

Dental braces, on the other hand, are worn mainly during childhood and adolescence. Thirty-five percent of the population said they wore dental braces, an increasing share since 2002 (23%). In the youngest age group, 15 to 24 years old, the share of people with dental braces is 63%. With regard to dental health and the use of dental appliances, clear social differences emerge.

More than 40 percent are myopic

The share of people wearing glasses or contact lenses increased from 59 percent in 1992 to 68 percent in 2022. This increase is partly due to the increase in myopia over the past 30 years (from 32% to 43%), but also to the fact that eyesight deteriorates as people get older so that they need a visual aid to read. In age groups 55 and older, more than 85 percent of people use a visual aid, most for reading.