According to a recent survey conducted for and published in “American Demographics” January 2001 issue by the research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch, 70% of Americans have tried or are currently using what the study called, “alternative medicine”. These types of numbers beg us to ask some questions. First, why is it called an alternative if more than half the people are using it? Secondly, why is it called alternative “medicine” when none of the types of care in the study are, or use medicine?
According to the survey, 44% of the general public utilizes some form of “faith healing” or prayer. This was the most popular approach as found by the study. According to the study, chiropractic or massage was the second most popular with 33% of the population using these. These numbers verify previous studies done by other researchers also showing the large increase in utilization of chiropractic services over the past decade.
The study goes on to point out that women are more receptive than men to using the “alternatives” as named by the study. There were also some large regional differences noted in the survey. Americans from the Western US were 16% more likely to visit a chiropractor than was the rest of the country. Southerners were more likely to practice faith healing than the rest of the nation, and Midwesterners were the least likely to use any of the alternatives named in the survey.
The type of illness that a person suffers also has an effect on what type of care they will seek. The survey showed that when asked a hypothetical question, people who said if they were diagnosed with a medically easily treatable disease would be less likely to try an “alternative”. On the other hand those people said that if they were diagnosed with a complex, potentially fatal illness, they would overwhelmingly inquire about alternative care. In this scenario almost double, or 60% of those surveyed said they would seek alternatives when faced with such a serious health concern. On the other hand only 11% said they would seek out alternative care if they felt they were in overall good health.
Age also played a role in the determination of usage of alternatives. The age group from 35 to 54 was constantly more likely to use alternatives than the age group 18 to 34. With each of the alternatives named in the survey differences ranged from 5% to over 10% more for the older groups. With these types of ever increasing usages it is probably time that we stop referring to these as alternatives and start calling them other forms of main stream health care.