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Are Users of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Sicker than Non-Users?

Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Hindawi Limited
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1093/ecam/nel076
  • Cam Policy
  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine


Higher utilization of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), both in cross-sections and over time, is commonly related to better socioeconomic status and to increased dissatisfaction with conventional medicine and its values. Little is known about health differences between users and non-users of CAM. The objective of the paper is to explore the difference in health measured by the SF-36 instrument between users and non-users of CAM, and to estimate the relative importance of the SF-36 health domains scales to the likelihood of consulting CAM providers. Interviews were used to collect information from a sample of 2000 persons in 1993 and 2500 persons in 2000, representing the Israeli Jewish urban population aged 45–75 in those years. Bivariate and logistic regression analyses were used to explore the above associations. The results show that while users of CAM enjoy higher socioeconomic status and younger age, they tend to report worse health than non-users on the eight SF-36 health domains scales in both years. However, controlling for personal characteristics, lower scores on the bodily pain, role-emotional and vitality scales are related to greater likelihood of CAM use in 2000. In 1993, no scale had a significant adjusted association with the use of CAM. The conclusions are that CAM users tend to report worse health. With CAM becoming a mainstream, though somewhat luxurious, medical practice, pain and affective-emotional distress are the main drivers of CAM use.

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