Oral complementary medicine and alternative practitioner use varies across chronic conditions and attitudes to risk

Robert J Adams, Sarah L Appleton, Antonia Cole, Tiffany K Gill, Anne W Taylor, Catherine L Hill

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Objectives: To determine whether chronic conditions and patient factors, such as risk perception and decision-making preferences, are associated with complementary medicine and alternative practitioner use in a representative longitudinal population cohort. Participants and setting: Analysis of data from Stage 2 of the North West Adelaide Health Study of 3161 adults who attended a study clinic visit in 2004-2006. The main outcome measures were the medications brought by participants to the study clinic visit, chronic health conditions, attitudes to risk, levels of satisfaction with conventional medicine, and preferred decision-making style. Results: At least one oral complementary medicine was used by 27.9% of participants, and 7.3% were visiting alternative practitioners (naturopath, osteopath). Oral complementary medicine use was significantly associated with arthritis, osteoporosis, and mental health conditions, but not with other chronic conditions. Any pattern of complementary medicine use was generally significantly associated with female gender, age at least 45 years, patient-driven decision-making preferences (odds ratio [OR] 1.38, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.08-1.77), and frequent general practitioner visits (>five per year; OR 3.62, 95% CI: 2.13-6.17). Alternative practitioner visitors were younger, with higher levels of education (diploma/trade [OR 1.88, 95% CI: 1.28-2.76], bachelor's degree [OR 1.77, 95% CI: 1.11-2.82], income > $80,000 (OR 2.28, 95% CI: 1.26-4.11), female gender (OR 3.15, 95% CI: 2.19-4.52), joint pain not diagnosed as arthritis (OR 1.68, 95% CI: 1.17-2.41), moderate to severe depressive symptoms (OR 2.15, 95% CI: 1.04-4.46), and risk-taking behavior (3.26, 1.80-5.92), or low-to-moderate risk aversion (OR 2.08, 95% CI: 1.26-4.11). Conclusion: Although there is widespread use of complementary medicines in the Australian community, there are differing patterns of use between those using oral complementary medicines and those using alternative practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-260
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Epidemiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

(CC BY-NC 3.0) Open Access article licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/


  • complementary medicine
  • chronic disease
  • risk attitudes
  • population study
  • Complementary medicine
  • Risk attitudes
  • Chronic disease
  • Population study


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