Factors influencing the use of complementary and alternative medicine and whether patients inform their primary care physician

Complement Ther Med. Feb-Apr 2012;20(1-2):45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2011.10.001. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


Objectives: Use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) is widespread. Several studies have explored why individuals chose to use CAM but there are fewer data to explain how its use 'dovetails' with conventional medicine. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of CAM use in the adult population in Australia and the proportion that seek advice or tell their primary care physician after CAM use, and also to investigate which demographic characteristics, health behaviours and health status are associated with CAM use and disclosure.

Design: A cross sectional survey.

Methods: a random sample of 1261 adults was interviewed as part of 2010 Queensland Social Survey, which contained questions about CAM use, frequency of use, types of CAM used, reasons for use, discussing and reporting CAM use with the doctor and confidence in CAM use. Relationships were explored using bivariate and multiple logistic regression.

Main outcome measures: use of CAM; sought advice from doctor before CAM use; informed doctor after CAM use.

Results: 61.7% of respondents had used self-prescribed CAM or visited a CAM practitioner. Being female and being younger predicted CAM use. Being male and in better health predicted seeking advice from the doctor before and also after CAM use.

Conclusion: Our results confirm the relatively high use of CAM in Queensland, Australia and found that a significant proportion of people did not seek advice from their primary care physician before using CAM, or disclose its use afterwards. These factors should be taken into account in the doctor-patient consultation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Counseling*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians, Primary Care
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Queensland
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Self Care
  • Sex Factors