Prescription medication use has increased substantially among all Americans, according to a recently released government report.

Nearly half of Americans age 65 and older take three or more prescription drugs and 44% of Americans in general reported taking at least one prescription drug in the month before being surveyed (in 1999 and 2000), according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  This compared to 39% in the 1988-1994 survey period.

The annual report, titled “Health, United States 2004,” tells the most current data collected from numerous federal health agencies, academic and professional health associations and international health organizations.

One in six adults reported taking three or more of prescription drugs by the end of the last decade, compared to about one in 10 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The HHS report attributes much of the increase in drug us on the popularity of antidepressants, anti-inflammatories and drugs designed to control cholesterol and blood sugar and at the same time makes a connection between the increase in some prescription drugs and the continued improvements in Americans’ health. In 2002 deaths from the heart disease, cancer and stroke, the nation’s three leading killers dropped between 1% and 3%.

The increase in prescription medication use especially among the elderly has raised fears among health experts of the risk in drug interactions. The cost of Americans’ increasing reliance on such drugs has increased drug expenditures by at least 15% each year since 1998.