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J Public Health (Oxf). 2004 Jun;26(2):152-7.

Use of complementary or alternative medicine in a general population in Great Britain. Results from the National Omnibus survey.

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Medical Care Research Unit, School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA.



A representative sample of the adults in England, Scotland and Wales was interviewed to estimate levels of use of complementary or alternative medicines (CAMs) and their socio-economic correlates.


The Omnibus survey is a multi-purpose survey carried out in the United Kingdom by the Office for National Statistics on behalf of non-profit making organizations. The survey is carried out in 2 out of 3 months each quarter using a stratified random, probability sample of households. An eight-question module was added to the interview schedule of the survey in March 2001. Topics included practitioner-based use of 23 named CAM therapies in the past 12 months. The resulting data were analysed in conjunction with socio-economic and demographic variables.


A response rate of 65 per cent (1794/2761) was achieved. An estimated 10.0 per cent of the population [95 per cent confidence interval (CI) 8.7-11.5 per cent] had received any CAM therapy from a practitioner in the past year. No individual therapy was used by more than 2 per cent of the sample. An estimated 6.5 per cent (95 per cent CI 5.4-7.6) had used one of the five main therapies: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy or herbal medicine. Estimates of CAM use were similar in England, Scotland and Wales. There was a significant positive association between CAM use and non-manual social class (p < 0.002), age left full-time education (p < 0.001), and gross income over pounds sterling 15,600 (p < 0.001). More than half (52 per cent) of the respondents that had used CAM in the past year had not told their general practitioner.


Strong correlations between the use of CAM and gross socio-economic indicators are demonstrated in the survey. Repeated national surveys of this type could provide a useful vehicle for collecting information about changing patterns of CAM use on a routine basis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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