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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Health Reports: Use of alternative health care


More and more Canadians are using forms of alternative health care such as chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists, according to new data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS).

In 2003, one-fifth of Canadians aged 12 or older, or an estimated 5.4 million people, reported having used some type of alternative or complementary health care in the year before the survey, confirming a trend toward higher use. About 15% of Canadians aged 18 or older had used alternative health care in the year before the 1994/95 National Population Health Survey.

An estimated 11% of the population aged 12 or older had consulted a chiropractor (the most common form of alternative care) in the year before the 2003 survey. Around 8% had consulted a massage therapist, 2% an acupuncturist, and 2% a homeopath or naturopath.

Regardless of the type of care, women were more likely than men to report having had a consultation. The age groups most likely to use alternative health care spanned mid-life, while the very young and seniors were less likely to have used such care. Use was also higher in the western provinces than in other parts of the country.

Alternative care related to income and education

Because the costs of many types of alternative care are only partially covered by provincial programs, it is not surprising that the use of such services rose with income.

Around one-quarter (26%) of individuals in the highest household income group had used alternative care in 2003. In contrast, only 13% of those in the lowest income group had done so.

In addition, use tended to rise with level of education. More than one-quarter of postsecondary graduates used some kind of alternative or complementary health care in 2003, compared with 16% of people with less than secondary graduation.

About one-quarter of people who reported having at least one diagnosed chronic condition had consulted an alternative practitioner in 2003. This contrasts with 16% of people who did not report any chronic conditions.

For more information on this article, contact Jungwee Park (613-951-4598;, Health Statistics Division

This issue of Health Reports also features articles on breastfeeding practices, non-fatal injuries among Aboriginal Canadians, passengers of intoxicated drivers and asthma.

Breastfeeding: One in six women met recommended guidelines

About one in six new mothers are meeting breastfeeding guidelines recommended by health agencies, according to a second article in Health Reports.

The study, also based on data from the 2003 CCHS, found that 17% of women who had had a baby in the five years before the survey had breastfed their infants exclusively for at least six months.

Exclusive breastfeeding is the practice of feeding an infant only breast milk, without the addition of water, breast milk substitutes, other liquids or solid food.

Guidelines prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada (formerly Health Canada) in 2004, which align with those of the World Health Organization, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, because "it provides all the nutrients, growth factors and immunological components a health term infant needs." Previously, Health Canada had recommended a minimum of four months.

The CCHS showed that an overwhelming majority of mothers, around 85%, attempted to breastfeed their most recent baby. However, many stopped in the first month, and fewer than half breastfed for at least six months. Only half of the group that breastfeed for six months did so exclusively.

Nonetheless, the proportion of women who attempted to breastfeed their infant has more than tripled during the past 40 years. In the mid-1960s, only about one-quarter of women made such an attempt.

For more information on this article, contact Wayne J. Millar (613-951-1631;, Health Statistics Division.

Passengers of intoxicated drivers

Only a small proportion of Canadians aged 12 or older say that in the past 12 months they had been passengers in a vehicle driven by someone who had too much to drink.

Just over 4% of people aged 12 or older in six provinces for which data were available (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia) said they had been passengers of drivers whom they perceived as having had too much to drink.

According to the 2000/01 CCHS, the individuals most likely to have reported that they had done so were in the youngest age group, 15 to 29.

The proportion of individuals who had been passengers of a drunk driver peaked at 18% among 19-year-old respondents.

On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of licensed drivers aged 16 or older reported that they always arranged for a designated driver when accompanying family or friends to a place where alcohol would be consumed.

For more information on this article, contact Anik Lacroix (613-951-1807;, Health Statistics Division.

Other articles

This edition of Health Reports contains two other articles. "Non-fatal injuries among Aboriginal Canadians" shows higher rates of activity-limiting injury among the off-reserve Aboriginal population in the provinces, compared with other provincial residents. In the territories, injury rates of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people did not differ significantly.

For more information on this article, contact Michael Tjepkema (416-952-4620;, Health Statistics Division.

"Asthma" provides recent prevalence, hospitalization and mortality data for the disease.

For more information on this article, contact Helen Johansen (613-722-5570;, Health Statistics Division, or Yue Chen (613-562-5800, extension 8287;, University of Ottawa.

Complete articles appear in the March 2005 issue of Health Reports, Vol. 16, No. 2 (82-003-XIE, $17/$48; 82-003-XPE, $22/$63), which is now available.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3226.

For more information about Health Reports, contact Anik Lacroix (613-951-1807;, Health Statistics Division.

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