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Open Access Research article

The use of complementary and alternative medicine products in preceding two days among Finnish parents - a population survey

Katri P Hämeen-Anttila1*, Ulla R Niskala2, Sanna M Siponen2 and Riitta S Ahonen2

Author Affiliations

1 Finnish Medicines Agency, Kuopio, Finland (P.O. Box 55, Microkatu 1, FI-00301 Helsinki, Finland

2 School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:107  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-107

Published: 4 November 2011

Abstract

Background

The use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) has been extensively studied globally among adult and paediatric populations. Parents, as a group, had not been studied to assess their knowledge and attitude to CAM and general medicine use. This study is necessary since parents' attitude to medicine use is known to influence their child's attitude to medicine use later in life. We therefore aim to assess the extent and types of CAM use among Finnish parents, and to determine the factors that promote the CAM use. Also, we aim to determine parents' attitude to general medicine use.

Methods

Children less than 12 years old, as of spring 2007, were identified from the database of the Finnish Population Register Centre and were selected by random sampling. The parents of these children were identified and a questionnaire was sent to them. Only the parent who regularly takes care of the child's medicine was requested to fill the questionnaire. Cross-tabulations and Chi-square test were used to determine the associations between categorical variables. CAMs were defined as natural products that are not registered as medicines, such as homeopathic preparations, dietary food supplements, and traditional medicinal products.

Results

The response rate of the survey was 67% (n = 4032). The use of CAM was 31% in the preceding two days. The most commonly used CAM products were vitamins and minerals, followed by fish oils and fatty acids. Prescription and OTC medicines were used concomitantly with CAM by one-third of the parents. CAM was frequently used by parents over 30 years (33%), female parents (32%), highly educated parents (35%), and parents with high monthly net income (3000-3999 euros, 34%). The users of CAM had more negative attitudes towards medicines than non-users of CAM.

Conclusions

Our findings are in accordance with those of previous studies that women over 30 years of age with a high education and income typically use CAMs. Finnish parents seem to use CAMs as complementary rather than alternative to medicines. Health care professionals should take into consideration both the concomitant use as well as the negative attitudes among CAM users in encounters with the parents.