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Are modern health worries, environmental concerns, or paranormal beliefs associated with perceptions of the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine?


Correspondence should be addressed to Professor Adrian Furnham, Department of Psychology, University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London WCIE 0AP, UK (e-mail:


Objective. To investigate to what extent paranormal beliefs, modern health worries (MHWs), and environmental concerns were related to beliefs about, and behaviour associated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Methods. Of the participants, 150 completed a four-part questionnaire measuring use and perception of CAM, MHWs, paranormal beliefs, and environmental concerns.

Results. A factor analysis on the CAM questions revealed three clear components, labelled efficacy of CAM, attitudes to CAM, and safety of CAM. Age, total MHWs, paranormal beliefs, and environmental concerns were used as predictor variables in regression analyses with efficacy as criterion variable. Age was found to be a significantly related to efficacy of CAM. When total MHW score, paranormal belief score, and environmental concern score were added to the model, the r2 increased by 29%. Environmental concern did not significantly relate to efficacy but spiritualism beliefs did. A factor analysis of the MHW scale items revealed nine factors. Out of these, radiation, doctors playing God, disasters, and epidemics, as well as harmful rays and air contaminants significantly predict belief in the efficacy of CAM.

Conclusion. Overall, older people, with more MHWs, and who believe in the paranormal are more likely to believe that CAM works, possibly because of a more intuitive, ‘holistic’, thinking style. Limitations of the study are considered.