Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Use of complementary and alternative medicine by those with a chronic disease and the general population - results of a national population based survey

Amy Metcalfe12, Jeanne Williams1, Jane McChesney12, Scott B Patten13 and Nathalie Jetté12*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Calgary, Department of Community Health Sciences TRW Building 3rd Floor 3280 Hospital Drive NW Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4Z6, Canada

2 University of Calgary, Department of Clinical Neurosciences 1403 29 Street NW Calgary, Alberta, T2N 2T9, Canada

3 University of Calgary, Department of Psychiatry 1403 29 Street NW Calgary, Alberta, T2N 2T9, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:58  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-58

Published: 18 October 2010



The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming more common, but population-based descriptions of its patterns of use are lacking. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of CAM use in the general population and for those with asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and migraine.


Data from cycles 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1 of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) were used for the study. The CCHS is a national cross-sectional survey administered to 400,055 Canadians aged ≥12 between 2001-2005. Self-reported information about professionally diagnosed health conditions was elicited. CCHS surveys use a multistage stratified cluster design to randomly select a representative sample of Canadian household residents. Descriptive data on the utilization of CAM services was calculated and logistic regression was used to determine what sociodemographic factors predict CAM use.


Weighted estimates show that 12.4% (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 12.2-12.5) of Canadians visited a CAM practitioner in the year they were surveyed; this rate was significantly higher for those with asthma 15.1% (95% CI: 14.5-15.7) and migraine 19.0% (95% CI: 18.4-19.6), and significantly lower for those with diabetes 8.0% (95% CI: 7.4-8.6) while the rate in those with epilepsy (10.3%, 95% CI: 8.4-12.2) was not significantly different from the general population.


A large proportion of Canadians use CAM services. Physicians should be aware that their patients may be accessing other services and should be prepared to ask and answer questions about the risks and benefits of CAM services in conjunction with standard medical care.