Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine has been in the news again recently, on account of the ongoing debate about whether homeopathic remedies should be available on the National Health Service.

This has prompted YouGov to conduct an online survey on 30-31 August about belief in alternative medicine among a representative sample of 1,548 adult Britons aged 18 and over. The results were posted on the YouGov website on 2 September at:

Respondents were asked how effective a treatment nine forms of alternative medicine were, with definitely, possibly, probably not and definitely not as the four principal options.

In terms of definitely being an effective treatment, chiropracty and osteopathy topped the list at 23%, with acupuncture not far behind at 18%. The other six remedies scored between 1% and 8%.

Extending the net, to embrace those who said the treatments were possibly as well as definitely effective, saw six remedies rising to more than 50%: acupuncture (66%), chiropracty (66%), osteopathy (65%), herbal medicine (51%) and reflexology (50%).

For all nine forms of alternative medicine, women were greater believers than men. This is the most obvious demographic variation, although the high proportion of don’t knows, ranging from 18% to 46% per treatment, makes it harder to detect trends.

Unfortunately, faith-healing was not included as an ‘alternative medicine’ in this poll. The nearest we come to it are Reiki (a Japanese Buddhist spiritual practice), which half of the sample appeared not to have heard of and only 4% rated as effective; and the crystal therapy beloved of New Agers but viewed as definitely effective by just 1%.

MORI polls in 2003 and 2006 found that 24% and 26% respectively of adults believed in faith-healers, 20% of men and 32% of women at the latter date. These and earlier figures from 1968 to 1998 can be found at:

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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