Understanding support for complementary and alternative medicine in general populations: Use and perceived efficacy

Stoneman, Paul; Sturgis, Patrick and Allum, Nick. 2012. Understanding support for complementary and alternative medicine in general populations: Use and perceived efficacy. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 17(5), pp. 512-529. ISSN 1363-4593 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Proponents of complementary and alternative medicine argue that these treatments can be used with great effect in addition to, and sometimes instead of, conventional medicine, a position which has drawn sustained opposition from those who advocate an evidence-based approach to the evaluation of treatment efficacy. Using recent survey data from the United Kingdom, this article seeks to establish a clearer understanding of the nature of the public’s relationship with complementary and alternative medicine within the general population by focusing on beliefs about the perceived effectiveness of homeopathy, in addition to its reported use. Using recent data from the United Kingdom, we initially demonstrate that reported use and perceived effectiveness are far from coterminous and argue that for a proper understanding of the motivations underpinning public support of complementary and alternative medicine, consideration of both reported use and perceived effectiveness is necessary. We go on to demonstrate that although the profile of homeopathy users differs from those who support this form of medicine, neither outcome is dependent upon peoples’ levels of knowledge about science. Instead, the results suggest a far greater explanatory role for need and concerns about conventional medicine.

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This research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, as part of the ‘Developing a novel segmentation of adults and young people in relation to biomedical science’ project, 2010–2011.


Complementary and alternative medicine, homeopathy, population estimates, public understanding of science

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13 December 2012Published

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01 May 2018 14:28

Last Modified:

01 May 2018 14:28

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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