Objective: The manifold studies on the usage of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) indicate that its utilization differs with respect to socio-cultural background, gender, age and underlying disease. This study intended to analyze the usage of specific CAM practices among a population of older German adults with health insurance coverage.
Methods: Data of 5 830 older individuals who participated in an anonymous cross sectional survey among German insurance beneficiaries were analyzed with respect to usage of CAM treatments applied by medical doctors or non-medical practitioners within the last 5 years.
Results: The most frequently used approaches were acupuncture/traditional Chinese medicine (21%), homeopathy (21%), movement therapies/physical exercises (19%), osteopathy/chiropractic (12%), herbs/phytotherapy (7%), diets/specific food recommendations (6%) and foot reflexology (5%). Anthroposophic medicine was used only to a minor degree. Acupuncture and homeopathy users were likely to choose more than one CAM treatment simultaneously, particularly the combination of homeopathy and acupuncture. Moreover, this study can confirm significant differences between women and men in the use of the main relevant CAM interventions.
Conclusion: The relative proportion of acupuncture usage was similar to homeopathy, which is an alternative whole medical system originating from Western Europe. This means that an Eastern alternative system is established also in Germany. In several cases not only one CAM treatment was used but distinct combinations existed (particularly homeopathy and acupuncture); thus one should be cautious to draw predictive conclusions from studies with broad and unspecific CAM categories, for among them there are several therapies which should not be regarded as CAM.