In this study the impact of the use of the terms complementary medicine and alternative medicine on participants responses to surveys about the use of, and beliefs about, these therapies was explored. Two identical surveys were prepared, one of which referred to alternative medicines and the other which referred to complementary medicine. A telephone survey was used to gather responses from a random sample of individuals living in 3 geographically close metropolitan cities in Australia. Respondents were those aged over 18 years who consented to participate in the study. Forty five percent of respondents indicated using complementary medicines while 34% used alternative medicine; similarly 40% had visited a complementary medicine practitioner while 29% had visited an alternative medicine practitioner. However neither of these comparisons was statistically significant. Questions related to beliefs about these therapies, sources of information and benefits for specific conditions showed few, if any, differences between the two groups. While the results of this study do not demonstrate that there are significant differences in responses to questionnaires depending on whether the terms complementary medicine or alternative medicine are used, the data does suggest that this is an area that requires more exploration.
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