The use of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) in 1 001 German adults: results of a population-based telephone survey

Gesundheitswesen. Aug-Sep 2008;70(8-9):e29-36. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1081505. Epub 2008 Sep 10.


Aim of the study: The objective of this study was to evaluate the patterns of use of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) in a representative adult population in Germany.

Methods: A population-based telephone survey was conducted in Lübeck, Germany. We performed computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) in order to obtain information on demographics, health status, prevalence of CAM usage, motivation for using CAM, type of CAM and health problems for which CAM were used.

Results: 1,001 adults (median age 48 years) participated in the study (response 46.8%). 79.6% of the interviewed subjects reported health problems. The most frequently named problems were chronic pain (45.3%), circulation problems (32.9%) and colds with fever (27.8%). Non-users of CAM had a lower incidence (76.6%) of overall illness than users (83.5%) (OR 0.65, 0.47-0.89). 42.3% of the participants had used CAM. The CAM user group consisted of significantly more females (72.8 vs. 55.5%) (OR 2.32, 1.74-3.08) and involved better educated subjects (school education >12 years, 36.6 vs. 27.9%, OR 3.25, 1.35-7.81) than the non-user group. The main health problems for which CAM was used were chronic pain (36.3%), some cases of uncomplicated colds (16.9%) and for improving general health (14.7%). Three procedures accounted for the majority of usage: Acupuncture (34.5%), homeopathy (27.3%) and herbal medicine (9.7%). A large number of participants reported as the main reason for using CAM the wish to avoid drugs as much as possible (31.7%). 26.7% reported opting for CAM due to the recommendation of their physician. 23.9% gave unsatisfactory results of conventional medicine as reason for CAM usage.

Conclusions: CAM is used widely for different complaints by the general population. This frequent use of CAM has implications for the health-care system and health policy.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Common Cold / epidemiology*
  • Common Cold / prevention & control*
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Interviews as Topic*
  • Male
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Class