Changes in Consumer Attitudes Toward CAM

Researchers compared the reasons for consulting CAM practitioners in Canadian consumers in 1997–8 and in 2005. “Motivations for consulting complementary and alternative medicine practitioners: A comparison of consumers from 1997–8 and 2005″ was published online in mid 2008 by BioMedCentral Complementary & Alternative Medicine (

Surveys were displayed in CAM and conventional medicine offices and clinics in Ontario, Canada, in 1997–8 and again in 2005, and self-selected participants returned the surveys by mail.

In 1997–8 the two top reasons for using CAM were that CAM allowed them to take an active role in their health (51.8 percent), and because conventional medicine was ineffective for their health problem (41.8 percent). In 2005, the treatment of the whole person (78.3 percent) was the top reason for using CAM followed by taking an active role in one’s health (76.5 percent).

The 2005 consumers were less educated, had slightly more chronic health complaints, had been using CAM for longer, and were more likely to consult chiropractors, reflexologists, and therapeutic touch practitioners than the 1997–8 consumers. Otherwise, the socio-demographic and health profiles of the two groups of CAM consumers were similar, as was their use of CAM.

“Compared to consumers in 1997–8, consumers in 2005 were more likely to endorse five of the six motivations for consulting CAM practitioners,” the authors wrote. “A shift towards motivations focusing more on the positive aspects of CAM and less on the negative aspects of conventional medicine was also noted for the 2005 consumers. Findings suggest that CAM motivations may shift over time as public knowledge of and experience with CAM also changes.”