Background: Little is known about how many dyspeptics in the population consult medical and non-medical practitioners, or the factors associated with various consulting patterns.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 748 Australians with dyspepsia investigated their age, sex, dyspepsia symptoms, medical and non-medical consultations, and health status on the SF-12.
Results: Overall, 56% had ever consulted a medical practitioner for dyspepsia. Of these, 54% consulted within 6 months of first symptoms. Non-medical practitioners were consulted by 29%. Compared to dyspeptics in all, or most, other consulting groups, subjects who did not consult (37%, group NO) were characterized by fewer symptoms, better physical health, and younger age. Those who only consulted doctors (34%, group M) were older and had better mental, but poorer physical health. Those who only consulted non-medical practitioners (7%, group N) were younger and had better physical, but poorer mental health. Dyspeptics consulting both medical and non-medical practitioners (22%, group M + N), were older, more dissatisfied with medical care, had more symptoms and poorer physical and mental health. Timing of medical consultations was similar in groups M and M + N. Group M + N dyspeptics consulted similar types, but more non-medical practitioners than group N. No sex differences were found in consulting behaviour.
Conclusions: Many dyspeptics do not consult; they have fewer symptoms than consulters. Consultation with non-medical practitioners is common and is associated with poor mental health. Dyspeptics seeking advice from both medical and non-medical practitioners are less satisfied with their medical management than those who only consult doctors for their dyspepsia.