Background: The extent to which common life transitions influence medication adherence among patients remains unknown. We examined whether retirement is associated with a change in adherence to medication in patients with hypertension or type 2 diabetes.
Methods: Participants in the Finnish Public Sector study were linked to national registers. We included data for the years 1994-2011. We identified and followed 3468 adult patients with hypertension and 412 adult patients with type 2 diabetes for medication adherence for the 3 years before their retirement and the 4 years after their retirement (mean follow-up 6.8 yr). Our primary outcome was proportion of patients with poor adherence to medication, which we defined as less than 40% of days covered by treatment. We determined these proportions before and after retirement using data from filled prescriptions.
Results: The preretirement prevalence of poor adherence to medication was 6% in men and women with hypertension, 2% in men with diabetes and 4% in women with diabetes. Among men, retirement was associated with an increased risk of poor adherence to both antihypertensive agents (odds ratio [OR] 1.32, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.03-1.68) and antidiabetic drugs (OR 2.40, 95% CI 1.37-4.20). Among women, an increased risk of poor adherence was seen only for antihypertensive agents (OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.07-1.46). Similar results were apparent for alternative definitions of poor adherence. Our results did not differ across strata of age, socioeconomic status or comorbidity.
Interpretation: We found a decline in adherence to medication after retirement among men and women with hypertension and men with type 2 diabetes. If these findings can be confirmed, we need randomized controlled trials to determine whether interventions to reduce poor adherence after retirement could improve clinical outcomes of treatments for hypertension and diabetes.