J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter; 1(4): 347-59.
The health beliefs and behaviors of three groups of complementary medicine and a general practice group of patients.
Department of Psychology, University College London, U.K.
Patients (n = 256), consulting either a general practitioner (GP) or one of three complementary practitioners (osteopath, homeopath, or acupuncturist), completed a seven-part questionnaire that looked at demographic data, medical history, familiarization with complementary therapies, health beliefs and life-style, health locus of control, scientific health beliefs, and their perceptions of the consultation style of general and complementary practitioners. The four subject groups did not differ significantly on the demographic variables of sex, years of schooling, whether or not they had a degree, marital status, or income, but did differ on age and number of children. The effects of both the significant demographic variables and some aspects of patients medical history were controlled for in subsequent analyses. Acupuncture patients stood out as having the most different chronic medical history. They were also least satisfied with their GP, had least confidence in prescribed drugs, and were most concerned with leading a healthy life-style. The acupuncture patients were most skeptical about orthodox medicine. The main finding was that patients of complementary practitioners are not a homogeneous group, but do differ in their views on satisfaction with GPs, healthy life-style, global environmental issues, confidence in prescribed drugs, faith in medical science, importance of a "healthy mind," harmful effects of medical science, and scientific methodology. The results imply that patients consult different practitioners, general or alternative, on the basis of a combination of their level of skepticism about orthodox medicine, their life-style, and other health beliefs. To talk of patients of complementary practitioners as a homogeneous group is fundamentally wrong.