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Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine ›› 2011, Vol. 9 ›› Issue (8): 847-856.doi: 10.3736/jcim20110806

Special Issue: Acupuncture & Moxibustion

• Original Clinical Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Usage of alternative medical systems,acupuncture, homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine, by older German adults

Arndt Büssing1,2(), Thomas Ostermann2,3, Peter Heusser2, Peter F. Matthiessen2   

  1. 1. Quality of Life, Spirituality and Coping, Center for Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Witten/ Herdecke, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, 58313 Herdecke, Germany
    2. Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Witten/Herdecke, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, 58313 Herdecke, Germany
    3. Research Methodology and Information Systems, Center for Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Witten/ Herdecke, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, 58313 Herdecke, Germany
  • Received:2011-03-31 Accepted:2011-06-07 Online:2011-08-20 Published:2011-08-15

Objective: The manifold studies on the usage of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) indicate that its utilization differs with respect to socio-cultural background, gender, age and underlying disease. This study intended to analyze the usage of specific CAM practices among a population of older German adults with health insurance coverage.
Methods: Data of 5 830 older individuals who participated in an anonymous cross sectional survey among German insurance beneficiaries were analyzed with respect to usage of CAM treatments applied by medical doctors or non-medical practitioners within the last 5 years.
Results: The most frequently used approaches were acupuncture/traditional Chinese medicine (21%), homeopathy (21%), movement therapies/physical exercises (19%), osteopathy/chiropractic (12%), herbs/phytotherapy (7%), diets/specific food recommendations (6%) and foot reflexology (5%). Anthroposophic medicine was used only to a minor degree. Acupuncture and homeopathy users were likely to choose more than one CAM treatment simultaneously, particularly the combination of homeopathy and acupuncture. Moreover, this study can confirm significant differences between women and men in the use of the main relevant CAM interventions.
Conclusion: The relative proportion of acupuncture usage was similar to homeopathy, which is an alternative whole medical system originating from Western Europe. This means that an Eastern alternative system is established also in Germany. In several cases not only one CAM treatment was used but distinct combinations existed (particularly homeopathy and acupuncture); thus one should be cautious to draw predictive conclusions from studies with broad and unspecific CAM categories, for among them there are several therapies which should not be regarded as CAM.

Key words: complementary therapies, acupucture therapy, homeopathy, marketing of health services, questionnaires, Germany, aged


Variable Women Men
Gender1 29.8% 70.2%
Age2** (mean±SD, years) 62.5±13.0 65.7±14.4
Family status1*
Living with partner 53% 88%
Divorced 8% 4%
Single 12% 3%
Widowed 27% 5%
Education level1*
Elementary school 14% 20%
Middle school 19% 22%
High school 61% 50%
Other 5% 8%
Yes 11% 10%
No 89% 90%
Employment status1*
Full time 20% 24%
Half time 19% 4%
Home work 16% 0%
Not working 12% 18%
Retired 33% 54%
Feeling ill1*
Yes 55% 59%
No 45% 41%
Disease category1*
Healthy 69% 67%
Acute diseases 7% 10%
Chronic diseases 15% 14%
Cancer 9% 9%
Health-related quality of life (SF-12)§
Physical health2** (mean±SD) 46.0±10.7 48.0±8.9
Mental health2** (mean±SD) 50.7±9.6 54.1±7.2
Days of treatment during the past year2
Hospital stay (mean±SD, d) 6.3±12.3 7.5±17.6
MD treatment (mean±SD, d) 15.0±39.3 12.8±36.8
NMP treatment (mean±SD, d)** 5.2±11.5 1.9±6.4

Figure 1

Complementary and alternative medicine usage within the last 2 years (n=5 830)"


Treatment usage n Homeopathy (%) Osteopathy/
chiropractic (%)
medicine (%)
phytotherapy (%)
- + - + - + - + - +
Acupuncture - 4 944 92 8 94 5 99 1 97 3
+ 886 66 34 77 23 96 4 89 11
Homeopathy - 5 117 94 6 99 1 98 2 88 12
+ 713 78 22 91 9 80 20 58 42

Figure 2

Differences between men and women with respect to the usage of complementary and alternative medicine treatments applied by medical doctors The values above the columns indicate the usage ratio women/men. All differences were significant at P≤0.001 (Pearson’s Chi square test)."


User Hospital stay (d) MD treatment (d) NMP treatment (d)
Non-acupuncture/homeopathy users
Women 6.3±13.2 (400) 12.6±38.0 (742) 4.2±10.2 (358)
Men 7.5±18.1 (1 241) 11.2±34.1 (2 346) 1.5±6.1 (829)
All users 7.2±17.0 (1 641) 11.6±35.1 (3 088) 2.3±7.6 (1 187)
F-value 1.6 0.9 31.0
P-value n.s. n.s. <0.001
Acupuncture/TCM users
Women 7.1±11.2 (170) 21.0±41.9 (303) 7.3±12.7 (159)
Men 7.7±16.3 (206) 23.1±53.2 (388) 2.3±4.6 (167)
All users 7.4±14.2 (376) 22.2±45.6 (691) 4.7±9.8 (326)
F-value 0.1 0.3 22.7
P-value n.s. n.s. <0.001
Homeopathy users
Women 4.9±7.5 (130) 16.2±33.5 (273) 7.7±14.7 (165)
Men 5.5±10.1 (137) 14.9±40.1 (278) 3.9±8.5 (145)
All users 5.2±9.0 (267) 15.6±36.9 (551) 5.9±12.3 (310)
F-value 0.3 0.2 7.7
P-value n.s. n.s. 0.006
Osteopathy/chiropractic users
Women 6.2±8.9 (90) 18.4±34.2 (175) 9.0±17.6 (94)
Men 6.7±12.6 (102) 21.4±55.8 (195) 3.3±5.7 (90)
All users 6.5±11.0 (192) 20.0±46.8 (370) 6.2±13.5 (184)
F-value 0.1 0.4 8.6
P-value n.s. n.s. 0.004
Phytotherapy users
Women 6.0±15.7 (46) 14.9±31.8 (102) 8.5±17.0 (62)
Men 6.6±10.8 (42) 22.8±56.3 (90) 3.8±5.7 (37)
All users 6.3±13.5 (88) 18.6±45.0 (192) 6.8±14.0 (99)
F-value 0.0 1.5 2.7
P-value n.s. n.s. n.s.
Anthroposophic medicine users
Women 3.4±5.7 (21) 11.8±12.6 (44) 9.5±17.4 (26)
Men 6.9±9.8 (16) 10.4±13.5 (25) 4.0±6.3 (11)
All users 5.0±7.8 (37) 11.3±12.9 (69) 7.9±15.1 (37)
F-value 1.9 0.2 1.0
P-value n.s. n.s. n.s.
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