GVSU researchers find more women than men keep leftover pain medications at home

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Daniel Montanera, Erkmen Aslim and Gerry Simons present health trends and risks during the 13th annual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast on February 3.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

More women than men in Michigan were prescribed pain medication and tend to keep any leftover medications in their homes, according to a health trend report from faculty researchers.

Erkmen Aslim and Daniel Montanera, assistant professors of economics from the Seidman College of Business, detailed health behaviors, risks and trends for Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan (KOMA) counties during the 13th annual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast on February 3.

They found one-third of men and women surveyed in KOMA and the Detroit region reported using pain medications in 2019. Aslim said because of the increasing trend in overdose deaths, the research team studied leftover pain medication.

More than 70 percent of men and women in Detroit reported keeping leftover prescribed pain medication. Aslim said in KOMA, more women (62 percent) than men (51 percent) kept leftover medication.

"If opioids and other pain medications are not disposed of properly, it could present a huge risk," Aslim said. "It could mean accidental poisoning or drug misuse. This also means it's important for organizations to promote more drug take-back events."

In addition, for the first time within Health Check reports, researchers studied health disparities by race, gender and ZIP codes, using data provided by Priority Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Blue Care Network. 

Montanera said lower income ZIP codes in both regions reported more diagnoses of diabetes. Higher income ZIP codes showed more diagnoses of asthma, depression and low back pain. Coronary artery disease rates were higher in Detroit than KOMA, regardless of ZIP codes.

"The two regions showed similar patterns of health disparities due to income, indicating underlying relationships between income and health outcomes," Montanera said.

Other health risk factors are noted below, with 2019 as the latest reporting year.

  • Alcohol: Men in KOMA have the highest percentage of heavy drinking (7.9 percent) and binge drinking (24.3 percent), compared to women in KOMA and Detroit men and women.
  • Cigarette smoking: Decreased among non-whites in Detroit to 18 percent; increased among non-whites in KOMA to nearly 30 percent.
  • E-cigarettes: Decreased slightly to 17 percent among non-whites in Detroit; increased sharply to 37 percent among non-whites in KOMA.  
  • Overweight: More men (38 percent) than women (29 percent) are overweight in both KOMA and Detroit. 

The full report will be posted on the Health Check website.


-- GVSU offers drop-off sites for prescription medications at the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses. Visit this Grand Valley Police Department website to learn more.

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Area and state health care leaders joined economics faculty members for a panel discussion following the Health Check report.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts