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Clin Med (Lond). 2013 Apr;13(2):126-31. doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.13-2-126.

Prevalence of use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by patients/consumers in the UK: systematic review of surveys.

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  • 1Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, Devon, UK.


This systematic review aimed to estimate the prevalence of use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the UK. Five databases were searched for English language, peer-reviewed surveys published between 1 January 2000 and 7 October 2011. In addition, relevant book chapters and files from our own departmental records were searched by hand. Eighty-nine surveys were included, with a total of 97,222 participants. Most studies were of poor methodological quality. Across surveys on CAM in general, the average one-year prevalence of use of CAM was 41.1% and the average lifetime prevalence was 51.8%. In methodologically sound surveys, the equivalent rates were 26.3% and 44%, respectively. In surveys with response rates >70%, average one-year prevalence was nearly threefold lower than in surveys with response rates between 21% and 50%. Herbal medicine was the most popular CAM, followed by homeopathy, aromatherapy, massage and reflexology. Many patients and consumers in the UK use CAM; healthcare professionals should therefore responsibly advise their patients about the use of CAM.


complementary and alternative medicine; survey; systematic review

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