This is the most common health ailment among urban Indians

To mitigate the impact of the ailment, consumers prefer over-the-counter pills over balms. Image courtesy: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

New Delhi: A pan-India survey by Ipsos has revealed that headache is the top common ailment among urban Indians, with at least 1 in 2 claiming to be suffering from it. Moreover, to mitigate the impact of the ailment, consumers prefer over-the-counter pills over balms.

The Ipsos Consumer Health Monitor: OTC Quotient of Urban India, covered 34 cities and 15,133 households. The survey cited fever, bodyache, common cold, and nose block among other top ailments.

"Notably for fever, consumers chose doctor visit over self-medication whereas for headache, cough and cold, more respondents seemed to self-medicate and rely on chemists. Further, gastric conditions were found to be more prevalent among geriatrics.

"Interestingly, Eno has emerged the top OTC brand choice for gastric conditions with at least 7 in 10 urban Indians preferring it. Zandu Balm was the top choice among balms for headaches," says a statement by Ipsos.

The survey monitored 15,133 households in 34 towns across four zones.

The survey captured 50 common ailments and conditions and includes the categories of analgesics and antipyretics, oral care, cough and cold, antacids and digestives, anti-spasmodics, anti diarrhoeal, skin injuries/ailments, hair problems, sleep loss, etc. actions taken (home remedies, self-medication, doctors visit), brand awareness and usage. It also included understanding the penetration of some common OTC categories including ORS, vitamins, minerals and supplements, artificial sweeteners etc, treatment management of common ailment and conditions (home remedies, self-medication, doctors visit).

The survey further checked the prevalence of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, thyroid etc and penetration of medical devices viz. Blood glucose monitor, Thermometer, BP monitor etc, in the household and a module on COVID-led behavior change.

Monica Gangwani, Country Service Line Leader, Ipsos Healthcare says, "Several observations compelled us to conduct this pan India study. One, we found there is a surge in self-medication due to paucity of time, increased literacy levels and high doctor fee. Secondly, mushrooming of new categories like cosmeceuticals, health supplements and wearable devices and thirdly erstwhile ethical pharma companies taking their popular brands from Rx to OTC and strong promotion of OTC brands. So technically, there have been a surfeit of ethical brands taking the OTC plunge and there was a complete lack of a credible study tying up various elements of the OTC aspects -- consumers, brands, behavior and need gaps."

Covid impact

Unlike popular perception, the study found no significant change in medicine stocking behaviour of consumers during the COVID lockdown phase vs pre-COVID. 55 per cent respondents did not specifically stock medicines during lockdown. This behaviour was no different to the pre-COVID phase with 54 per cent of the respondents claiming not stocking medicines even during normal times.

Only 7 per cent of the respondents mentioned consulting a doctor during the COVID lockdown phase. 88 per cent of those consultations were for common conditions viz. cough, cold, fever, acidity, indigestion etc, while 31 per cent were for regular check-ups for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, asthma etc.


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