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Complement Ther Med. 2000 Jun;8(2):88-96.

The prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use among the general population: a systematic review of the literature.

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  • 1University of Wales Institute Cardiff, School of Health and Social Studies, Cardiff, UK.



To conduct a systematic review of published research investigating the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in the general population.


A protocol was developed for a systematic review of survey literature identified using two bibliographic databases and citation tracking. The protocol specified criteria for: 1) database searches; 2) selection of studies for review; and 3) description of methodological and substantive aspects of the studies.


Twelve studies were reviewed. These estimated the prevalence of CAM use in Australia, Canada, Finland, Israel, the UK, and the USA. The most rigorous studies, conducted in Australia and the USA, showed that a high proportion of the population was using CAM. There was evidence from the USA that CAM use increased significantly among the general population during the 1990s.


CAM is used by substantial proportions of the general population of a number of countries, but differences in study design and methodological limitations make it difficult to compare prevalence estimates both within and between countries.

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