In 2016, the majority of adult Canadians (79 per cent) tried at least one form of complementary or alternative medicine, according to a new report from the Fraser Institute.
The number was up from 74 per cent in 2006 and 73 per cent in 1997. The report pegged private spending at $8.8 billion in 2016, an increase from $8 billion in 2006 and $6.3 billion in 1997.
The types of alternative therapies people are using, however, are changing. In 2016, nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) had tried massage, a significant increase from the past two surveys (35 per cent in 2006 and 23 per cent in 1997). The use of chiropractic care has also increased to 42 per cent (up from 40 per cent in 2006 and 36 per cent in 1997). Yoga, acupuncture, osteopathy and naturopathy have also become more popular, while the use of high dose vitamins and herbal therapies are both in decline.
Complementary and alternative medicine is most popular among respondents aged 35 to 44, and use rises with income and education level. Sixty-one per cent of respondents who hold a university degree have used at least one form of alternative therapy, compared to 40 per cent of respondents who hadn’t finished high school. Similarly, 62 per cent of those earning $80,000 or more each year have done so, compared to 51 per cent of those earning $20,000 or less.
The study also found just over half of respondents (57 per cent) had some form of health insurance beyond their provincial coverage. It was most common among those aged 35 to 44 (67 per cent) and those aged 45 to 64 (62 per cent), as well as those in Alberta (69 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (68 per cent) and those with annual incomes over $80,000 (77 per cent).
Health insurance covered a significant proportion of respondents’ costs for massage therapy (69 per cent) and chiropractic (76 per cent). It’s worthwhile to note, however, that the Manitoba health-care system covers a portion of residents’ chiropractic treatments.
Many respondents use complementary and alternative therapies to maintain health and prevent illness, the study noted. However, the proportion doing so has dropped to 60 per cent in 2016 from 74 per cent in 1997. It also depends on the type of treatment: 86 per cent of people practising yoga did so for wellness, while just 37 per cent of those using spiritual healing did so for that reason. Other respondents used alternative therapies to treat existing conditions.