Context: Although acupuncture and homeopathy both have a theoretical background that refers to immaterial forces difficult to verify, they are nevertheless used and accepted as effective treatments by many individuals.
Objective: We intended to investigate whether and how users of acupuncture and homeopathy differ with respect to sociodemographic data, adaptive coping strategies, and attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Design and patients: In an anonymous questionnaire survey among 5,830 elderly German health insurants, we identified individuals who used CAM within the last five years.
Results: Acupuncture was used by 10% of the population, homeopathy by 7%, and both by 5%. More men than women used acupuncture, whereas homeopathy was used equally by women and men. Acupuncture users had a reduced physical health status compared to homeopathy users. In most cases, it was not a disappointment with conventional medicine that accounted for CAM usage. Stepwise regression analyses revealed that the best predictors of acupuncture and homeopathy usage were the conviction that CAM is more profound and expends more time, fear of the side effects of conventional medicine, and high scores in the measure of search for information and alternative help. Negative predictors were physical health, male gender, age, and trust in a scientific rationale of treatments.
Conclusion: We found that usage of distinct CAM approaches might depend on particular psychosocial profiles, attitudes, and convictions. In contrast to homeopathy users, acupuncture users seemed to be much more pragmatic and referred more often to an expected scientific background of chosen treatment. Our findings fill a gap of knowledge that needs further attention.
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