COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Motivations for consulting complementary and alternative medicine practitioners: a comparison of consumers from 1997-8 and 2005

Fuschia M Sirois
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008, 8: 16
18442414

BACKGROUND: Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and especially CAM practitioners, has continued to rise in recent years. Although several motivators of CAM use have been identified, little is known about how and if the motivations for using CAM have changed over time. The purpose of the current study was to compare the reasons for consulting CAM practitioners in consumers in 1997-8 and eight years later in 2005.

METHODS: Surveys were displayed in CAM and conventional medicine offices and clinics in Ontario, Canada in 1997-8 and again in 2005, and self-selected participants returned the surveys by mail.

RESULTS: In 1997-8, 141 CAM consumers were identified from the 199 surveys returned, and 185 CAM consumers were identified from the 239 surveys returned in 2005. Five of the six CAM motivations were more likely to be endorsed by the 2005 CAM consumers compared to the 1997-8 CAM consumers (all p's < .0001). In 1997-8 the two top reasons for using CAM were that CAM allowed them to take an active role in their health (51.8%), and because conventional medicine was ineffective for their health problem (41.8%). In 2005, the treatment of the whole person (78.3%) was the top reason for using CAM followed by taking an active role in one's health (76.5%). The 2005 consumers were less educated, had slightly more chronic health complaints, had been using CAM for longer, and were more likely to consult chiropractors, reflexologists, and therapeutic touch practitioners than the 1997-8 consumers. Otherwise, the socio-demographic and health profiles of the two groups of CAM consumers were similar, as was their use of CAM.

CONCLUSION: Compared to consumers in 1997-8, consumers in 2005 were more likely to endorse five of the six motivations for consulting CAM practitioners. A shift towards motivations focusing more on the positive aspects of CAM and less on the negative aspects of conventional medicine was also noted for the 2005 consumers. Findings suggest that CAM motivations may shift over time as public knowledge of and experience with CAM also changes.

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