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July 20, 1998|WASHINGTON POST

People who seek care via alternative medicine tend to be better educated than medical mainstreamers, according to a national survey.

Alternative-medicine patients also tend to have a "holistic" outlook--believing in "the importance of body, mind and spirit in health"--and report having more health problems, according to the survey that recently appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Forty percent of respondents said they had used some form of alternative health care during the previous year, although only 4% said they relied primarily on alternative health care.

Use of alternative health care was defined by the survey as use in the past year of such treatments as acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal therapy, chiropractic, massage, high-dose megavitamins, imagery, energy healing, folk remedies, biofeedback, hypnosis, and art or music therapy.

Surprisingly, a negative attitude toward or bad experience with conventional medicine did not seem to make people more likely to choose alternative therapies. Nor did such factors as age, gender, race, ethnicity or income make a difference in the survey.

The most commonly used alternative treatment cited in the survey was chiropractic (16%). The most frequently cited health problems treated with alternative therapy were chronic pain, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, sprains and muscle strains, addictive problems, arthritis and headaches.

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