Changes in public awareness of, attitudes to, and use of complementary therapy in North East Scotland: Surveys in 1993 and 1999

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Objective: To assess changes in awareness of, use of, attitudes to, and opinions about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) amongst residents of North East Scotland and to obtain details about CAM use from respondents. Study design: Population survey carried out in 1999, 6 years after the initial study. Postal survey to 800 people to examine eight CAMs; acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, herbalism, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, osteopathy, and reflexology. Results: A total of 432/800 (54%) responded, of whom 175 (41%) had used at least one type of CAM compared to 29% in 1993. Increases in use were statistically significant for aromatherapy (18% versus 9%), acupuncture (10% versus 6%) and reflexology (9% versus 3%). A greater proportion of 1999 respondents thought CAM should be available on the NHS but a smaller proportion of respondents had concerns about using CAM (25% in 1993 and 20% in 1999). Overall concerns about effectiveness of therapies had increased from 36 to 45%, but fewer individuals were concerned about the cost of therapy in the 1999 survey (52% in 1993 to 22% in 1999).

A total of 175 individuals provided details about one CAM they had used. The self-reported primary reasons for using CAM were relief of pain due to headaches or musculoskeletal problems, and for relaxation and relief of stress. The majority of CAM was therapist administered (103/166) as opposed to a bought product. Effectiveness ratings were self-reported but overall 80/166 found CAM very effective and 62/166 partially effective. A total of 65% had consulted their GP about their health problem before using CAM, 59/157 indicated their GP knew they were using CAM and of these, 14 indicated their GP was administering the therapy.

Conclusions: The study has provided further baseline data on which to assess trends in CAM use and highlighted issues for patients and the NHS about the use of CAM to relieve health problems. Results indicate a greater proportion of the population of North East Scotland are both aware of and using CAM to relieve health problems. More research into the implications for the NHS of concurrent use of CAM with conventional medicine is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-153
Number of pages5
JournalComplementary Therapies in Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2002




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