Complementary therapy gaining popularity in England

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The article below was first published in International Therapist issue 129 (Summer 2019)

Complementary therapy use in England has grown by 4% between 2005 and 2015, according to a national survey (sharp et al, 2018).

Ipsos MORI asked 4,862 adults in England about their complementary therapy use over the past 12 months, with 766 saying they had seen a practitioner during that time. This means 16% of respondents had treatments in 2015, up from 12% in 2005.

Those interviewed visited practitioners for therapies including massage, acupuncture, yoga, reflexology and mindfulness. They most commonly sought treatments to help with musculoskeletal conditions (68%), particularly back pain (38%). The second most popular reason was support with a mental health condition (12%), including for stress, anxiety or depression (7%) and sleep problems, tiredness or fatigue (4%). Around 11% had therapies to support general wellbeing and prevent ill health.

However, because therapies are predominantly self-funded, access is unequal, with wealthier people far more likely to get the support they need compared with people on a low income. More than two-thirds (67%) of complementary therapy users either pay for their treatments or have them paid for by friends and family, while 17% are referred by their GP and 4% by another health professional. Those who were referred by a GP or healthcare professional usually had treatments funded by the NHS and were more often than not unemployed, with lower socioeconomic status. Almost 40% felt that increased NHS funding and GP referrals and/or endorsement would increase their complementary therapy use.

Those in the south of England were almost twice as likely to have treatments as people living in the Midlands or the north of England. This could again relate to wealth, as the average person living in the south is more likely to have the disposable income to pay for treatments than those further north.

Just over one-fifth of respondents (22%) claimed they would not be willing to pay for a therapy treatment.

Read more about the survey at

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