Switzerland and antibiotics – 2022 population survey

Bern, 2.2.2023 – Almost one fifth of the Swiss population took antibiotics in the past year. But what do the Swiss know about the use and consumption of antibiotics and the development of antibiotic resistance? We commissioned a survey.

For purposes of implementing the Swiss Antibiotic Resistance Strategy (StAR), it is important to understand how the population uses antibiotics, what they know about them and whether their attitudes towards their use is changing over time. Thus, a representative survey of the Swiss population has been conducted every two years since 2016. In 2022, around 1,000 Swiss from all parts of the country were once again asked about their knowledge of, attitude towards and use of antibiotics. The questions asked concerned primarily the human and farm animal antibiotic use.

Reduction in antibiotic use

In 2022, almost one fifth of the Swiss population took antibiotics. Consumption of antibiotics has fallen by 3 percentage points: from 22 percent in 2020 to 19 percent in 2022. Respondents received the drug either directly from their doctor or with a medical prescription from a pharmacy. The survey showed that antibiotics were taken primarily for surgical procedures (17 percent), for various inflammations and infections (16 percent), or for urinary tract infections/bladder inflammation (13 percent).

What the Swiss population knows

Knowledge about antibiotics in the Swiss population has increased slightly over time (2016 to 2022). It is commonly known that:

  • the unnecessary use of antibiotics reduces their effectiveness,
  • taking antibiotics often has side effects,
  • antibiotics are not effective in fighting flu and colds.

Despite this, more than a third of the Swiss population (38 percent) still believe that antibiotics destroy viruses, whereas, in reality, they are only effective against bacteria.

Knowledge gaps exist primarily when it comes to the correct use of antibiotics: in 2022, only 44 percent of respondents knew that they should always follow the doctor’s instructions, when taking antibiotics. There is still a common misconception that one must finish all the antibiotics in a pack, or that treatment can be discontinued upon feeling better.

Knowledge gaps exist with regard to the correct disposal of leftover antibiotics. Two thirds of respondents do actually take the antibiotics back to the pharmacy and a further 15 percent return them to their doctor’s practice. Eleven percent dispose of them in their household waste, however, while 9 percent keep them and use them the next time they have an infection.

Wish for more information

Half the respondents spontaneously agreed that antibiotic resistance must be fought at all levels – individually, regionally, nationally and internationally. Two thirds of respondents would like to receive more information on the topics of side effects and antibiotic resistance, as well as general information on antibiotics. They would like to receive this information directly from medical professionals or at the pharmacy, in addition to the valuable information available on online portals.

Last modification 02.02.2023

Top of page


Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Communicable Diseases Division
Strategies, Principles and Programmes Section
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Bern
Tel. +41 58 463 87 06

Print contact