And there's a wide disparity both in where they live and their family income between young people who use alternative treatments and those who don't.
These are two of the findings from a new Queen's University study into the use by Canadian youth of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which includes massage therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy and naturopathy. Funded by the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation, this is the first population-based study of its kind.
"We don't like to think Canada has a two-tiered health system, yet this is clearly a service which is more accessible to those who have the resources to pay for it than those who don't," says lead investigator Dr. Mary Ann McColl of Queen's Centre for Health Services and Policy Research. "In the desperate situation these families may find themselves having a child in pain, with persistent problems the availability of options is different for well-off kids than it is for poorer kids."
Also on the team are Alison James (Centre for Health Services and Policy Research), Diane Davies (Canadian Adolescents at Risk Research Network), Michelle Garieri (Kingston Wellness Centre) and research analyst Nancy Churchman.
The new study analyzes data collected by Statistics Canada as part of the Canadian Community Health Survey in 2000-2001. A total of 17,545 adolescents across the country, between the ages of 12 and 19, are included in this health-care snapshot. "Disability" is defined by the researchers as having at least one impairment (for example a visual or mobility problem) and at least one activity restriction.
Among the key findings: