To determine whether users and non-users of alternative medicine in the province of Quebec differ in terms of demographic characteristics, health profile or utilization of medical services.
The Quebec Health Insurance Board (QHIB) medical service records of the Quebec Health Survey (1987) respondents for the 12 months before the survey were linked with respondents' survey answers. Those who saw an alternative medicine practitioner at their last professional consultation (the "users", n = 169) were matched by diagnosis and area of residence with those who saw a physician instead (the "non-users", n = 169).
Users and non-users of alternative medicine differed in age, activity, education and income. After adjustment for age, education and income, the two groups had a similar health profile, but users of alternative medicine had made fewer medical visits in the previous year.
Alternative medicine attracts a particular clientele. More research is needed to understand the reasons people look to alternative therapies instead of conventional medicine.