In order to effectively execute the national Strategy on Antibiotic Resistance (StAR), it is important to know how people use antibiotics, how much they know about them and whether their attitudes towards their use is changing over time. For this reason, DemoSCOPE conducted the biannual representative telephone survey of the Swiss population last year on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). Like in 2016, 2018, and 2020, 1,000 Swiss citizens were asked about their knowledge of, attitudes towards, and use of antibiotics. We summarised the key findings of this 2022 survey below.
How people in Switzerland use antibiotics
In 2022, almost one fifth of the Swiss population took antibiotics. Antibiotic use declined compared to the previous survey, down from 22% in 2020 to 19% in 2022, in particular in German-speaking Switzerland (- 3%) and Western Switzerland (- 7%).
Respondents reported receiving their antibiotics either directly from their GP or from a pharmacy with a prescription.
The antibiotics were taken primarily in connection with surgery (17%), for various inflammations or infections (16%), or to treat bladder or urinary tract infections (13%).
The proportion of respondents that took antibiotics following the determination of the underlying cause of disease with a laboratory test declined slightly. This proportion was 59% in 2020 and only 54% in 2022.
What people in Switzerland know about antibiotics
Respondents were asked to answer true or false to the following statements:
- Antibiotics destroy viruses (FALSE; answered correctly by 62%).
- Antibiotics are an effective agent against flu and colds (FALSE; answered correctly by 87%). Substantially more respondents answered correctly in 2022 compared to 2022 (up 9%).
- Taking antibiotics unnecessarily reduces their efficacy (TRUE; answered correctly by 86%).
- Taking antibiotics is often accompanied by side-effects such as diarrhoea (TRUE; answered correctly by 68%).
Almost half the respondents (47%) answered all four statements correctly and third (34%) answered three out of four correctly. On average, 3.24 of the statements were answered correctly – the highest value recorded in these surveys to date.
It is generally known that unnecessarily taking antibiotics will reduce their efficacy, and that antibiotics are not effective against flu or colds. Despite this, over one-third of Switzerland’s population (38%) incorrectly indicates that antibiotics can kill viruses.
Knowledge gaps in the use of antibiotics
Only 44% of the survey’s respondents who had taken antibiotics last year followed the instructions by their GP or pharmacy. These are somewhat more than the 38% in 2020, but substantially fewer than the 61% in 2016 who reported that they had completed the entire course of antibiotics prescribed to them. Accordingly, the number of people that stopped their treatment either after 4 to 14 days, after the packet was empty, or after they felt better declined slightly. The general rule here: antibiotics should always be taken as instructed by the health professionals concerned.