Personality and consultations with complementary and alternative medicine practitioners: a five-factor model investigation of the degree of use and motives

Fuschia M Sirois, Rebecca J Purc-Stephenson
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice, and Policy 2008, 14 (9): 1151-8

OBJECTIVES: As interest in and use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers continues to grow, it is important to understand which characteristics incline people to experiment with and become frequent consumers of CAM practitioners. The purpose of this study was to examine how personality, as assessed by the five-factor model, was related to the breadth, frequency, and types of provider-based CAM use. Relationships between the personality factors (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) and motives for consulting CAM providers were also explored.

METHODS: A convenience sample of 184 current CAM clients recruited through the offices of 12 conventional medicine and 17 CAM practitioners completed a survey package including measures of health status, CAM use, personality, and motivations for using CAM.

RESULTS: Only Openness and Agreeableness were consistently linked to different dimensions of CAM use, with each associated with consultations with CAM practitioners, and homeopaths and naturopaths in particular. After controlling for sociodemographic and health status variables in the stepwise multiple regressions, Openness was associated with the variety of CAM providers tried, whereas Agreeableness was linked to both the breadth and frequency of CAM consultations. Holistic and proactive health motivations were associated with both personality factors, and Agreeableness was also associated with motives reflecting a desire for shared decision-making.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate that individuals who are open and agreeable, as described by the five-factor model of personality, consult CAM practitioners to a greater extent. The motives involved suggest a congruency between CAM and their own perspectives regarding health and patient-provider interactions, which may have implications for understanding treatment adherence and outcomes.

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