Headaches and analgesics – Brits swallow the pain not the pill

August 16, 2013


The world can be a stressful place. With hectic lifestyles, less family time and other financial headaches, it often feels like modern life has consumers on the edge. However, it seems Brits would rather swallow the pain than swallow the pill as according to new research from Mintel, today as many as 57%* of the nation believe it’s best to try and fight the pain for as long as possible before taking non-prescription painkillers. Just a quarter (24%) of Brits admit to resorting to non-prescription painkillers at the first sign of pain.

Indeed, Mintel’s research finds that while as many as 30.4 million (71%) Brits claim to have suffered from headaches or migraines in the past six months, the analgesics market in the UK has stagnated over the past five years, valued at £582 million in 2008 and around the same (£583 million) in 2012.

Mintel’s research also highlights consumer concerns surrounding non-prescription pain remedies. Becoming over reliant on non-prescription pain killers is a worry for 56% of Brits while 40% believe it is better to treat pain with natural remedies first, for example with exercise or homeopathic medicine. Around the same number (39%) are concerned about the side effects of non-prescription pain remedies.

Roshida Khanom, OTC and Personal Care Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The fact that almost six in ten people agree that it is best to fight a pain before taking OTC pain remedies, suggests a reluctance to take medication.  And with more than half of Brits agreeing that it is easy to become reliant on OTC painkillers, it is clear that a sense of phobia is prominent in the analgesics category. It is likely to be this belief that drives people to put off using OTC painkillers for as long as they can after suffering from a pain. The market could respond to this by offering packs of products with different levels of active ingredients, to enable people to use products they may feel more comfortable with, such as a lower dosage that they are less likely to be become reliant on. It also enables people to tailor their own dosage levels, so that they do not feel as though they are having too much.”

The research also examines attitudes towards pain and finds as many as three quarters (74%) of consumers admit they get frustrated when a pain gets in the way of things they want to do. Additionally, around half (52%) say suffering from pain makes them feel old and for two in five (43%) pain interferes with their social life.

“Despite the fact that three quarters of adults feel frustrated when a pain interferes with things they want to do, there is a resistance to taking pain remedies at the first sign of pain. As only a quarter of adults do so, it’s likely that people are trying other forms of pain management before turning to oral remedies. “ adds Roshida.

It appears that where we live can also influence the likelihood of suffering from headaches. Regionally, consumers in Yorkshire and Humberside are most likely (74%) to be afflicted by headaches or migraines, compared to the rest of the nation (72% in South East and East Anglia,  71% in London, North West, Scotland, South West and Wales respectively, 69% in East and West Midlands).  The research also confirms that women really do suffer more headaches than men, indeed, a higher number (78%) of women claim to have experienced headaches or migraines in the last six months, compared to 64% of men.

When it comes to age differences, it appears that peace of mind comes with age. Younger people (those aged 25-34) are more likely than other age groups to suffer from migraines and headaches, with up to 80% of them having experienced one compared to 46% of those aged 65 and over. And academic life can also be a cause of headaches, with as many as 80% of those in full time education claiming to suffer from a headache or migraine compared to 49% of retired Brits and 74% of those employed full time.

And while buying a house is a dream for many, the dream home can bring headaches with it. Indeed, those with a mortgage are more likely (77%) to suffer from headaches or migraines compared to 63% of those who have bought outright and 71% of those who rent from private landlords. Parenting worries may be a source of headaches too, with parents of young children aged four and under more likely to suffer from these pains (83%) compared to those with no children (66%).

Finally, despite the overall flat performance of the market, the segment to see the biggest rise in value sales within the overall OTC analgesic market has been paediatric analgesics. The sector rose by 8% in the past year alone going from £79 million in 2012 to £86 million in 2013.

“While parents might be happy to suffer in silence, they are reluctant to put their children through the same level of pain. The growth in paediatric analgesics is likely driven by the rise in the baby boom and growth amongst the under 15s. It is also reflective of the increased launch activity in this segment in 2012.” Roshida concludes.


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