Globally, the preference for use of complementary and alternative medicines is rapidly increasing. A recent study by a group of Indian researchers shows that the factors behind this inclination towards alternative therapies vary largely with the type of diseases people suffer from. The process of choosing a treatment and how this differs between individuals may depend on gender, society and the intrinsic philosophy of an individual.
By Praheli Dhar Chowdhuri
Two third of the world’s population have used at least one form of complementary and alternative medicine (e.g. acupuncture, herbal preparations, homeopathy etc.), alone or in parallel with conventional medicine, in their lifetime. This trend is steeply increasing. The advent of modern technologies and their incorporation into conventional treatments has not diminished the charm of different forms of traditional or folk remedies.
How do we choose to get well?
Medical researchers have always wanted to know what factors drive people to choose a particular form of treatment. It turns out that there are many; age, gender, educational level, financial constraints, social and cultural values, personal philosophy, understanding about the process of healing, personal needs etc., all influence this decision. But can we really empirically measure how such an important choice is made? A recent study, published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, shows that such treatment-related choices are measurable and vary significantly with the type of disease an individual suffers from.
Different choices, different reasons
Researchers in India have found that people tend to be more dependent on their ideation about treatment outcome and the cost of treatment while choosing complementary medicine for acute or breakthrough diseases. Here, societal values or social practice has an important impact. It was seen that for acute diseases, men tend to choose alternative therapies more, whereas for prolonged illnesses, alternative medicines are mostly chosen by women. The study also uses a mathematical model to show that when people suffer from chronic diseases they are more prone to choose their preferred form of treatment on the basis of their philosophical congruence with the treatment modality, as this type of disease stimulates a philosophical need to be treated as a whole, rather than merely for the disease.
“These findings will be helpful in strategizing the healthcare delivery system according to people’s needs and disease they suffer from”, said Dr. Kundu, the senior researcher of the study.
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