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See That Warning Sticker? Seniors Don't, Study Says


You know those colorful little warning stickers that the pharmacist slaps on prescription pill bottles?

Actually, you might not.  A new study says that most older adults ignore them, while most younger people read them.

Michigan State University researchers used eye-tracking technology as well as follow-up memory tests to see whether people paid attention to the pill container stickers that say things like, "Do not consume alcohol while taking this medication," or "Take with food."

They found that while everyone looked at the standard white prescription label, people over the age of 50 were much less likely to notice the additional warnings.

The findings are significant because older adults often take more medications than younger ones, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes.

The Michigan researchers tested two groups of subjects -- 15 who were ages 20 to 29, and 17 who were ages 51 to 77. While nearly three-fourths of the younger subjects looked at all the warning stickers, only a third of the older ones did. Another third of the seniors failed to look at any of the stickers.

As the Los Angeles Times explained, the eye-tracking technology showed that younger adults scanned pill vials more actively, while the older adults fixed their gaze in a more stationary fashion, and often missed the warnings. And the color of the stickers didn't seem to have any effect.

However, when seniors did notice the stickers, they could recall what they said just as well as the younger adults.

The study authors say these findings suggest that prescription labeling needs to be re-designed to feature warnings more prominently and clearly.

Because all the subjects looked at the main prescription label, the authors recommend that warnings be incorporated into the large white label, instead of relying on multiple stickers stuck on another part of the container where they can be easily overlooked.

In other health news:

Low-fat diet may reduce hot flashes. The New York Times reports that a low-fat diet may reduce menopausal hot flashes and night sweats, according to a new study of nearly 17,500 women.

Exercise offers some protection against Alzheimer's. Evidence is mounting that exercise provides some protection from memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, with three new studies showing that a variety of physical activities are associated with healthier brains in older adults, HealthDay News reports.

Photo credit: Charles Williams via flickr

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