(Un)healthy lifestylesEducation as a dividing line

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Alternative medicine

Authors: Stéfanie André, Roza Meuleman and Gerbert Kraaykamp

In the discussion of health-related behaviour, prevention is also a relevant factor. Increasing attention is being devoted to diet; people are more aware of their health and seek to influence it through their behaviour. The use of alternative medicine is a further background factor in this trend.

Highly educated women with a good income are regarded as the most frequent users of alternative medicine in industrialised countries (Ernst 2000). Does this picture hold for the Netherlands in 2014? To establish this, we use a measurement instrument to ascertain whether people have used any of 11 alternative therapies during the past 12 months. The therapies concerned are acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicines, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, reflexology and spiritual healing.

Use by educational level
Figure 11.1 illustrates the educational differences in the use of alternative medicine by Dutch people aged between 25 and 70 years. These therapies are used most by people with a higher professional (hbo) education (22.0%) and least by people with a low educational level (14.5%). Additionally, higher professional and university graduates appear to use several alternative therapies more often than people with a low and intermediate education.

Figure 11.1Use of alternative medicine by educational level

Gebruik alternatieve geneeswijzen afgelopen years low higher secondary higher professional (HBO) university (WO)
1x 10,7 11,8 16,2 10,8
>1x 3,8 3,5 5,8 6,5

aAcupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicines, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, reflexology and spiritual healing.

Source:European Social Survey Netherlands, Round 7, 2014-2015 (N=1,415)

Use by sex
In figure 11.2 we break down the use of alternative medicine for men and women. It is abundantly clear that women use more alternative therapies than men, and this applies within all educational groups. Women with a higher professional (hbo) education are particularly heavy users of alternative therapies, with 28.1% using these therapies one or more times per year. The corresponding figure for hbo-educated men is 15.2%.

The small educational disparities among men are striking: in all education groups, just over 10% have used an alternative therapy once or more during the year. The percentages are systematically higher among women, and especially those with a higher professional education.

Figure 11.2Use of alternative medicine by educational level and sex

Gebruik alternatieve geneeswijzen afgelopen years low higher secondary higher professional (HBO) university (WO)
1x 8,6 10,4 12,5 9
>1x 2 1,2 2,7 6,3
1x 12,3 13,3 19,6 12,8
>1x 5,4 5,7 8,5 6,7

aAcupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicines, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, reflexology and spiritual healing.

Source:European Social Survey Netherlands, Round 7, 2014-2015 (N=1,415)

Alternative medicine in Europe
Is the use of alternative therapies equally widespread throughout Europe? The answer to this question is ‘no’: there is a clear distribution in the degree to which alternative medicine is used. Figure 11.3 shows that, for example, in Germany both men and women use alternative therapies more than twice as often as in the Netherlands. The education gap in the use of alternative medicine is greatest in Estonia, for both men and women.

Figure 11.3Educational differences in alternative medicine in Europe

men
low education intermediate education high education
Belgium 22,7 27,3 24,2
Denmark 28,9 22,3 31,2
Germany 33,3 36,6 38,7
Estonia 21,3 24,9 40,3
Finland 27,2 31,9 36,6
France 18,5 42 38,4
Ireland 10,9 15,4 20,8
Lithuania 30,6 22,3 31,5
The Netherlands 12,1 8,8 15,2
Norway 23,1 34,8 28,2
Austria 27,1 39,2 29,2
Poland 10,5 15,3 15,6
Portugal 9,3 21 14,8
Slovenia 12,8 25,7 30,7
Spain 12,3 18,2 24,9
Czech Republic 16,9 26,8 25,1
United Kingdom 15,1 16,5 24,6
Sweden 33,2 29,8 29,6
Switzerland 29 39 34,5
women
low education intermediate education high education
Belgium 25,8 31,6 40,5
Denmark 44,8 38,7 38
Germany 47,4 49,7 52,3
Estonia 37,8 41,8 55,6
Finland 31,1 47,4 47,1
France 35,9 45,7 57,6
Ireland 17,1 26,2 35,5
Lithuania 53,1 45,9 40,5
The Netherlands 18,5 18,4 25,9
Norway 38,2 40,1 32,5
Austria 38,7 60,9 54,3
Poland 11,6 16,7 20,9
Portugal 9,3 26,3 35,4
Slovenia 22,7 28,6 45,1
Spain 18,4 31 31,1
Tsjechie 30,7 34 37
United Kingdom 19,1 26,3 31,9
Sweden 42,2 40,3 42,7
Switzerland 49,7 51,3 49,8

aAcupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicines, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, reflexology and spiritual healing.

Source:European Social Survey Netherlands, Round 7, 2014-2015 (n=25,538)

References

Ernst, E. (2000). Prevalence of use of complementary/alternative medicine: a systematic review. In: Bulletin of the World Health Organization, vol. 78, no. 2, pp. 252-257.

Cite this card

André, S., R. Meuleman and G. Kraaykamp (2018). Alternative medicine. In: (Un)healthy lifestyles: Education as a dividing line. Retrieved [datum vandaag] from https://digital.scp.nl/lifestyles/alternative-medicine.

Information notes