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

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

September 15, 2013


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.

Published in

Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 17 , p.512 -529







Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users*



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest