Complementary Therapy on the Rise

More people in Northern Ireland are using complementary and alternative medicine, a new survey has suggested. The University of Ulster survey found the use of therapies such as reflexology, acupuncture and herbal medicines was increasing.

It found using such therapies was especially strong among women aged between 35 and 54. Professor Suzanne McDonough said the findings provide a valuable backdrop to encouraging integrated medicine. She said 29% of people interviewed had received some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) over the previous 12 months, with a very wide range of therapies being used. “Compared to previous surveys in the UK there is an increasing use of CAM, with over 75% still being provided outside the National Health Service, indicating that the general population is willing to pay for these treatments,” she said.

She said evidence suggested that integrated medicine – medicine in which conventional and CAM approaches are combined – is more cost-effective than conventional medicine alone. “However, until recently no figures for CAM use in Northern Ireland have been available,” she said. The survey reported that the most-used therapies, in order, were aromatherapy, reflexology, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine and relaxation. Usage ranged from just over 14% for aromatherapy to 9% relaxation. CAM may involve self-treatment or a practitioner. Of practitioner-treatments, reflexology was most commonly used.

According to the survey, acupuncture, chiropractic and herbal medicine were chosen most often for a health reason whereas aromatherapy and reflexology were more commonly used for wellness and relaxation. It said common health problems were musculoskeletal, stress, women’s health and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In terms of how effective the treatment was, 74% of respondents who had received acupuncture thought it was definitely or probably very helpful; the least confidence was shown in aromatherapy in that 17% said it was probably or definitely not helpful.

The Northern Ireland 2005 Life and Times Survey interviewed 1,200 people.

posted on Jan 5, 2010