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Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2007 Aug;13(3):146-57. Epub 2007 Apr 30.

The relationship between social factors and attitudes toward conventional and CAM practitioners.

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  • 1Osher Institute, Harvard Medical School, 401 Park Drive, Suite 22A, Second Floor West, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



The research results on the relationship between social factors and attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) and conventional practitioners are equivocal. Some researchers theorize a relationship between social factors and attitudes toward providers, with CAM being more attractive to socially and economically marginalized groups.


To evaluate the relationships between selected sociodemographic factors and attitudes toward CAMs in the general US population.


A subset of data from a 1997-1998 nationally representative survey was examined using descriptive and univariate analyses.


Five outcomes exploring preference for CAM or conventional medical practitioners are considered. Age was positively related to favoring one's conventional medical doctor. Subjects who reported using CAM for wellness/prevention reported significantly less confidence in their conventional doctors than individuals who did not report using CAM for wellness/prevention. Those with low income were also significantly less confident in their medical doctors and less satisfied with their conventional medical practitioners than those with higher incomes.


While more prospective work is needed, this analysis suggests that social factors may be related to practitioner preference. Finding out why these relationships exist is important for the effectiveness of health care.

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