Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) are used by an extensive number of patients in the UK and elsewhere. In order to understand this pattern of behavior, it is helpful to examine the characteristics of people who use CAM. This narrative review collates and evaluates the evidence concerning the demographic characteristics and health status factors associated with CAM use in community-based non-clinical populations. A systematic literature search of computerized databases was conducted, and published research papers which present evidence concerning associations between CAM use and demographic and health characteristics are discussed and evaluated. The evidence suggests that people who use CAM tend to be female, of middle age and have more education. In terms of their health, CAM users tend to have more than one medical condition, but might not be more likely than non-users to have specific conditions such as cancer or to rate their own general health as poor. The multivariate studies that have been conducted suggest that both demographic and health characteristics contribute independently to CAM use. In conclusion, demographic characteristics and factors related to an individual's health status are associated with CAM use. Future research is needed to address methodological limitations in existing studies.
Keywords: CAM use; patient characteristics; review.