Complementary and alternative medicine use in England: results from a national survey


  • Disclosures None.

Katherine Hunt,
Research Fellow, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter, EX2 4NT, UK
Tel.: 01392 430802
Fax: 01392 427562


Objectives:  In many countries, recent data on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are available. However, in England, there is a paucity of such data. We sought to determine the prevalence and predictors of CAM use in England.

Design:  Data were obtained from the Health Survey for England 2005, a national household survey that included questions on CAM use. We used binary logistic regression modelling to explore whether demographic, health and lifestyle factors predict CAM use.

Results:  Data were available for 7630 respondents (household response rate 71%). Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of CAM use were 44.0% and 26.3% respectively; 12.1% had consulted a practitioner in the preceding 12 months. Massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture were the most commonly used therapies. Twenty-nine percent of respondents taking prescription drugs had used CAM in the last 12 months. Women (OR 0.491, 95% CI: 0.419, 0.577), university educated respondents (OR 1.296, 95% CI: 1.088, 1.544), those suffering from anxiety or depression (OR 1.341, 95% CI: 1.074, 1.674), people with poorer mental health (on GHQ: OR 1.062, 95% CI 1.026, 1.100) and lower levels of perceived social support (1.047, 95% CI: 1.008, 1.088), people consuming ≥ 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (OR 1.327, 95% CI: 1.124, 1.567) were significantly more likely to use CAM.

Conclusion:  Complementary and alternative medicine use in England remains substantial, even amongst those taking prescription drugs. These data serve as a valuable reminder to medical practitioners to ask patients about CAM use and should be routinely collected to facilitate prioritisation of the research agenda in CAM.