Objectives: To investigate whether complementary medicine (CAM) use is associated with health literacy levels and decision self-efficacy.

Design: A cross-sectional survey was distributed to men and women aged 65 years and older who participated in a randomised control trial (N = 153) in Sydney, Australia.

Results: One hundred and fifty-three people completed the survey of those 66% were females and the mean age was 76 years. Most participants used or were currently using CAM in the past 12 months (75%). The most common source of CAM information were GPs. Participants with higher levels of social support were found more likely to use CAM accessed over the counter (OTC). Participants reporting lower health literacy skills with appraising health information were more likely to use CAM delivered by CAM practitioners. Participants with higher levels of health literacy relating to the domain - “ability to actively engage with health care providers” - were found to use OTC CAM. No relationship was found between participants’ decision-making self-efficacy and use of CAM accessed from a CAM practitioner or OTC.

Conclusions: CAM is used by older Australians to maintain their health. Use of CAM was not associated with decision self-efficacy and health literacy. However, CAM users who have less skills with appraising information are possibly more likely to access their CAM from trusted sources such as a CAM practitioners.


CAM, older adults, Australia, health literacy

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