Objectives: To compare the characteristics of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) users and non-users among Australian women.
Design: Cross-sectional postal questionnaire conducted during 1996, forming the baseline survey of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.
Participants: Women aged 18-23 years (n = 14 779), 45-50 years (n = 14 099) and 70-75 years (n = 12 939), randomly selected from the Health Insurance Commission database, with over-sampling of women from rural and remote areas of Australia.
Main outcome measures: Consultation with an alternative health practitioner in the 12 months before the survey.
Results: Women in the mid-age cohort were more likely to have consulted an alternative health practitioner in the previous year (28%) than women in the younger cohort (19%) or older cohort (15%). In all age groups, CAM users were more likely than CAM non-users to reside in non-urban areas, to report poorer health, have more symptoms and illness, and be higher users of conventional health services.
Conclusions: Women in non-urban Australia are more likely to use CAM but do so in in parallel with conventional health services.