Pharmacy World & Science

, 30:65 | Cite as

Adolescents’ struggles with swallowing tablets: barriers, strategies and learning

  • Dana Lee HansenEmail author
  • Ditte Tulinius
  • Ebba Holme Hansen
Research Article


Objective To explore adolescents’ struggles with taking oral medications. Setting Copenhagen, Denmark. Method Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 89 adolescents (33 boys, 56 girls) between the ages of 11 and 20. Adolescents were recruited through four public schools. To identify struggles with taking oral medication, interview transcripts were systematically searched for statements including the terms swallow, chew, crush and eat. Thematic analysis of the identified statements was carried out to reveal dominant themes in the adolescents’ accounts. Results Over one-third of the adolescents spontaneously provided accounts of the difficulties they experienced with taking oral medications, especially with swallowing tablets. Three themes were dominant in their narratives: barriers, strategies and learning. Barriers experienced by the adolescents involved the medications’ properties, e.g. taste. Adolescents developed strategies to overcome these barriers, e.g. crushing tablets. Via a process of learning-by-doing and the acquisition of increased experience and autonomy, many adolescents mastered the skill of swallowing tablets. Conclusion Many adolescents experienced barriers in their attempts to swallow tablets. They developed various strategies to overcome these barriers and gradually mastered taking medicines in a learning-by-doing process.


Adolescents Children Compliance Denmark Learning-by-doing Medication use Oral medications Swallowing Taste User perspective 



This study was part of the authors’ employment at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

We would like to thank the adolescents who participated in the interviews as well as the schools that provided assistance with recruitment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana Lee Hansen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ditte Tulinius
    • 1
  • Ebba Holme Hansen
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, FKL–Research Centre for Quality in Medicine UseUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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