The profile of women who consult alternative health practitioners in Australia

Jon Adams, David W Sibbritt, Gary Easthope and Anne F Young
Med J Aust 2003; 179 (6): 297-300.


Objectives: To compare the characteristics of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) users and non-users among Australian women.

Design: Cross-sectional postal questionnaire conducted during 1996, forming the baseline survey of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.

Participants: Women aged 18–23 years (n = 14 779), 45–50 years (= 14 099) and 70–75 years (n = 12 939), randomly selected from the Health Insurance Commission database, with over-sampling of women from rural and remote areas of Australia.

Main outcome measures: Consultation with an alternative health practitioner in the 12 months before the survey.

Results: Women in the mid-age cohort were more likely to have consulted an alternative health practitioner in the previous year (28%) than women in the younger cohort (19%) or older cohort (15%). In all age groups, CAM users were more likely than CAM non-users to reside in non-urban areas, to report poorer health, have more symptoms and illness, and be higher users of conventional health services.

Conclusions: Women in non-urban Australia are more likely to use CAM but do so in in parallel with conventional health services.

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  • Jon Adams1
  • David W Sibbritt2
  • Gary Easthope3
  • Anne F Young4

  • 1 Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW.
  • 2 School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS.
  • 3 Women’s Health Australia, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW.



The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, which was conceived and developed by groups of inter-disciplinary researchers at the Universities of Newcastle and Queensland, is funded by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. We thank all participants for their valuable contribution to this project.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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