The 2012 drug prescribing report from the Barmer GEK, a statutory insurer which covers nearly 9.1 million people, shows women are being prescribed psycho-active drugs in such numbers that lasting side-effects should be expected, the authors warned.
The difference cannot be justified medically, contravene guidelines and increase the risk of dependence and addiction, the insurer said in a statement.
Author of the study Gerd Glaeske estimated there were around 1.2 million people in Germany who were addicted to tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Two thirds of these people were older women, he said.
One possible reason for the discrepancy between women and men could be that women were more likely to speak with their doctors about psychological problems – but he said many doctors were also prescribing incorrectly.
He told the Die Welt newspaper that drug dependency typically started for women when they were between 45 and 50 years old – when the children leave home. But many start taking pain killers earlier for period pain or migraines, he said.
In general women were more often given psycho-active drugs, while men were more likely to be given other drugs, such as those designed to affect the cardio-vascular system.
On average women are prescribed drugs 9.37 times a year, while men on average get 7.63 prescriptions a year.