Reducing Self-Medication in Iranian Women Based on Health Belief Model: A Brief Report


avatar Afsaneh Behroozpour 1 , avatar Mohsen Shams ORCID 1 , * , avatar Masoumeh Mousavi 2 , 3 , avatar Rahim Ostovar ORCID 4

Department of Health Education and Promotion, School of Health, Yasuj University of Medical Sciences, Yasuj, Iran
Modeling in Health Research Center, Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Shahrekord, Iran
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Shahrekord, Iran
Department of Public Health, Yasuj University of Medical Sciences, Yasuj, Iran

how to cite: Behroozpour A , Shams M, Mousavi M, Ostovar R. Reducing Self-Medication in Iranian Women Based on Health Belief Model: A Brief Report. Shiraz E-Med J.22(2):e102363. doi: 10.5812/semj.102363.


Self-medication is a serious health problem in Iran. In this quasi-experimental study with a control group, four healthcare facilities were selected and divided into intervention and control groups. Based on the health files of women in healthcare facilities, 192 women were selected randomly and completed a self-reported questionnaire to measure Health Belief Model constructs and self-medication. After analyzing the data, perceived susceptibility was found as the main predictive factor for self-medication, and an intervention was developed to increase it. The intervention consisted of lectures and group discussions, along with distributing pamphlets and sending short messages for four weeks. Three months later, the data was collected again and analyzed. Perceived susceptibility was improved, and self-reported behavior was reduced significantly in intervention groups compared to the control groups.

1. Background

Self-medication is considered an important health issue around the world, including Iran (1). According to the World Health Organization, 2% - 40% of the medical costs are spent on arbitrary medication purchases (2). Nearly 83.3% of Iranians do self-medication (3). It results in bad consequences such as high consumption of medications, high risk of reuse and prolonged use of medication, increased drug resistance, drug interactions, and side effects, making the disease symptoms hidden, and wasting financial resources (4).

The health relief model (HBM) is one of the most practical models that health educators use to explain and predict health behavior based on individual perceptions and beliefs (5).

2. Objectives

This study has been designed and implemented to reduce self-medication by Iranian women through using a common behavioral change model, HBM.

3. Methods

This study was quasi-experimental with a control group. It was conducted on women in Yasuj, a city located in the southwest of Iran. There are four urban health care facilities in Yasuj. All these facilities were selected, and two of them were considered as an intervention group and two others as the control group. For each group, 96 women over 15 years old were selected through random sampling. In other words, the sample consisted of 192 individuals who were randomly selected and divided into two groups of intervention and control. The data were collected by using a questionnaire which was developed to measure the constructs of HBM for self-medicational behavior. It has the content validity index of 0.81, content validity ratio of 0.75, and Cronbach’s alpha of 0.82 (6).

During contact with women and after obtaining consent from women, they were invited to attend the facilities. After receiving written informed consent, they completed the questionnaire. The inclusion criteria include: having a health file in a health care facility, having the willingness to participate in the study, and having a disease. Women who did not want to continue attendance in the study, and were absent in more than one educational session, were excluded.

The educational intervention was implemented for four weeks. It was concluded with four 60-minute educational sessions established in the intervention facilities. The intervention consisted of lectures and group discussions on the subject of self-medication, along with distributing pamphlets and sending short messages. Three months after the intervention, the data was collected again for the intervention and control groups and compared with each other. For data analysis, SPSS 16 software was used. Results were considered significant at P < 0.05.

4. Results

The mean and standard deviation in the age of the women was 31.24 ± 7.81 years, 88.5% were married, all of them had one type of health insurance, 19.3% were employed, 50% had university degrees, and 73% had two or fewer children. Before the intervention, there was no significant difference in self-medication behavior in both intervention and control groups. After the intervention, there was a significant difference between these groups regarding the perceived susceptibility construct (Table 1). Table 2 shows the most frequent external cues to action.

Table 1. Changes in Health Belief Model Constructs in Participants
VariableAfter InterventionBefore Intervention
Perceived sensitivity
Control group83.51101.02
Intervention group109.4991.98
Mann Whitney testP = 0.001P = 0.25
Perceived severity
Control group100.05100.04
Intervention group92.9592.96
Mann Whitney testP = 0.37P = 0.37
Perceived benefits
Control group93.1894.1
Intervention group99.1998.99
Mann Whitney testP = 0.50P = 0.53
Perceived barriers
Control group93.6493.64
Intervention group99.3699.36
Mann Whitney testP = 0.47P = 0.47
Control group94.4894.29
Intervention group98.5298.71
Mann Whitney testP = 0.61P = 0.58
Self-medication behavior
Control group10290.50
Intervention group91102.5
Mann Whitney testP = 0.10P = 0.08
Table 2. Cues to Action for Self-Medication Behaviorsa
Control GroupIntervention Group
Internal cues
Physician50 (50.4)44 (45.3)
Family and acquaintances4 (4.8)11 (11.1)
Book and booklet2 (2.2)5 (5.1)
Magazine and publications0 (0)1 (1)
Television34 (35.3)18 (19.2)
Radio1 (1.2)5 (5.2)
Other patients5 (6.1)12 (13.1)
Total96 (100)96 (100)
External cues
Fear of self-medication complications61 (63.5)59 (60.1)
Disbelief of self-medication18 (18.8)22 (22.6)
Favorable general situation11 (11.3)12 (13.5)
Other cases6 (6.4)3 (3.8)
Total96 (100)96 (100)

5. Discussion

Self-medication is one of the major health issues in Iran. The results of the study showed that self-medication behavior was reduced significantly in the intervention group compared to the control group. The mean of perceived susceptibility in the intervention group was significantly higher than before intervention, while in the control group, it was not. It may be a good indication of the effect of educational intervention on improving the perceived susceptibility of individuals as an important predictor of self-medication behavior. Self-medication in the intervention group decreased compared to before intervention, which can be attributed to the positive impact of education, which is consistent with other studies (7-13).

The results also revealed that after the intervention, the susceptibility of the subjects to referral to physicians increased and self-medication, as a self-reported behavior, decreased. Regarding the above, it is necessary to educate the community about the correct use of medicine and develop appropriate training programs tailored to the culture and target group. In the present study, physicians and television after training were selected as the most important external cues to action, and fear of self-medication complications as the most important internal cues to action among the intervention group.

According to the study findings, the fear of drug complications was considered as an internal cue to action in both groups. Therefore, it is recommended in training programs to provide more information on the side effects of medicines and how to use them properly. The results of many studies around the world indicated that physicians, family members, radio, and television (mass media) were introduced as the first source of information and the most important cues to the action of drug use (14). Therefore, in the health-promoting programs, radio, TV (mass media), and physicians can be used to promote self-medication prevention behavior. In this study, observation of the outcome was not possible. So, we had to measure the self-medication behavior by using the self-reported questionnaire. This was an important limitation. Additionally, the facility would be a confounding factor to assigned subjects to intervention and control groups.

According to this study, a purposeful intervention focused on the stronger predictors of the intended behavior is effective. In our study, the perceived susceptibility needed to be considered as a priority in developing the content and structure of the intervention. This is the basis of theory/model-based health education. Therefore, if we want to modify the self-medication behavior in women in similar communities, we must focus on their susceptibility (changing their beliefs that they are at risk of health problems resulting from self-medication). To design more effective interventions, exploring the special predictors for the intended behavior is fundamental in different behaviors and different target audiences.



  • 1.

    Shaamekhi HR, Asghari Jafarabadi M, Alizadeh M. Demographic determinants of self-medication in the population covered by health centers in Tabriz. Health Promot Perspect. 2019;9(3):181-90. doi: 10.15171/hpp.2019.26. [PubMed: 31508338]. [PubMed Central: PMC6717925].

  • 2.

    Niroomand N, Bayati M, Seif M, Delavari S, Delavari S. Self-medication pattern and prevalence among Iranian medical sciences students. Curr Drug Saf. 2020;15(1):45-52. doi: 10.2174/1574886314666191022095058. [PubMed: 31642791].

  • 3.

    Jafari F, Khatony A, Rahmani E. Prevalence of self-medication among the elderly in Kermanshah-Iran. Glob J Health Sci. 2015;7(2):360-5. doi: 10.5539/gjhs.v7n2p360. [PubMed: 25716414]. [PubMed Central: PMC4796481].

  • 4.

    Okumura J, Wakai S, Umenai T. Drug utilisation and self-medication in rural communities in Vietnam. Soc Sci Med. 2002;54(12):1875-86. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(01)00155-1. [PubMed: 12113442].

  • 5.

    Harvey JN, Lawson VL. The importance of health belief models in determining self-care behaviour in diabetes. Diabet Med. 2009;26(1):5-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2008.02628.x. [PubMed: 19125754].

  • 6.

    Karimi M, Heidarnia A, Ghofranipour F. Reasons affecting on self-medication in elderly covered by urban centers Zarandieh by using Health Belief Model. J Arak Univ Med Sci. 2011;58(5):70-8.

  • 7.

    Jeihooni AK, Hidarnia A, Kaveh MH, Hajizadeh E, Askari A. Effects of an osteoporosis prevention program based on health belief model among females. Nurs Midwifery Stud. 2015;4(3). e26731. doi: 10.17795/nmsjournal26731. [PubMed: 26576440]. [PubMed Central: PMC4644602].

  • 8.

    Wallace LS. Osteoporosis prevention in college women: application of the expanded health belief model. Am J Health Behav. 2002;26(3):163-72. doi: 10.5993/ajhb.26.3.1. [PubMed: 12018752].

  • 9.

    Jeihooni AK, Kashfi SH, Bahmandost M, Afzali Harsini P. Promoting preventive behaviors of nosocomial infections in nurses: The effect of an educational program based on health belief model. Invest Educ Enferm. 2018;36(1). e09. doi: 10.17533/udea.iee.v36n1e09. [PubMed: 29898348].

  • 10.

    Ghaffari M, Tavassoli E, Esmaillzadeh A, Hassanzadeh A. Effect of Health Belief Model based intervention on promoting nutritional behaviors about osteoporosis prevention among students of female middle schools in Isfahan, Iran. J Educ Health Promot. 2012;1:14. doi: 10.4103/2277-9531.98572. [PubMed: 23555117]. [PubMed Central: PMC3577402].

  • 11.

    Sharifirad G, Hazavehie SMM, Mohebi S, Rahimi MA, Hasanzadeh A. The effect of educational programme based on Health Belief Model (HBM) on the foot care by type II diabetic patients. Iran J Endocrinol Metab. 2006;8(3):231-9.

  • 12.

    Srithongklang W, Panithanang B, Kompor P, Pengsaa P, Kaewpitoon N, Wakkhuwatapong P, et al. Effect of educational intervention based on the health belief model and self-efficacy in promoting preventive behaviors in a cholangiocarcinoma screening group. J Cancer Educ. 2019;34(6):1173-80. doi: 10.1007/s13187-018-1424-7. [PubMed: 30244403].

  • 13.

    Sahebi L, Saedi A, Amini S, Moosakhani M. Investigation the status of self-medication of referrers in pharmacies throughout the city of Tabriz. Pharm Sci J. 2005;14(4):174-81.

  • 14.

    Landers TF, Ferng YH, McLoughlin JW, Barrett AE, Larson E. Antibiotic identification, use, and self-medication for respiratory illnesses among urban Latinos. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2010;22(9):488-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2010.00539.x. [PubMed: 20854641]. [PubMed Central: PMC3058843].

Copyright © 2020, Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License ( which permits copy and redistribute the material just in noncommercial usages, provided the original work is properly cited.