Oral complementary medicine and alternative practitioner use varies across chronic conditions and attitudes to risk
Robert J Adams1, Sarah L Appleton1, Antonia Cole2, Tiffany K Gill3, Anne W Taylor3, Catherine L Hill1
1The Health Observatory, 2Rheumatology Unit, 3Population Research and Outcomes Unit, SA Health, The University of Adelaide Discipline of Medicine, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woodville, Australia
Objectives: To determine whether chronic conditions and patient factors, such as risk perception and decision-making preferences, are associated with complementary medicine and alternative practitioner use in a representative longitudinal population cohort.
Participants and setting: Analysis of data from Stage 2 of the North West Adelaide Health Study of 3161 adults who attended a study clinic visit in 2004–2006. The main outcome measures were the medications brought by participants to the study clinic visit, chronic health conditions, attitudes to risk, levels of satisfaction with conventional medicine, and preferred decision-making style.
Results: At least one oral complementary medicine was used by 27.9% of participants, and 7.3% were visiting alternative practitioners (naturopath, osteopath). Oral complementary medicine use was significantly associated with arthritis, osteoporosis, and mental health conditions, but not with other chronic conditions. Any pattern of complementary medicine use was generally significantly associated with female gender, age at least 45 years, patient-driven decision-making preferences (odds ratio [OR] 1.38, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.08–1.77), and frequent general practitioner visits (>five per year; OR 3.62, 95% CI: 2.13–6.17). Alternative practitioner visitors were younger, with higher levels of education (diploma/trade [OR 1.88, 95% CI: 1.28–2.76], bachelor’s degree [OR 1.77, 95% CI: 1.11–2.82], income > $80,000 (OR 2.28, 95% CI: 1.26–4.11), female gender (OR 3.15, 95% CI: 2.19–4.52), joint pain not diagnosed as arthritis (OR 1.68, 95% CI: 1.17–2.41), moderate to severe depressive symptoms (OR 2.15, 95% CI: 1.04–4.46), and risk-taking behavior (3.26, 1.80–5.92), or low-to-moderate risk aversion (OR 2.08, 95% CI: 1.26–4.11).
Conclusion: Although there is widespread use of complementary medicines in the Australian community, there are differing patterns of use between those using oral complementary medicines and those using alternative practitioners.
Keywords: complementary medicine, chronic disease, risk attitudes, population study
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