Sydney, July 24 : The number of people visiting complementary health professionals in Australia has increased by 50 per cent in the last decade.
Most had consultations for arthritis (20 per cent), asthma (14 per cent) and mental or behavioural disorders (13 per cent).
Chiropractors, naturopaths and acupuncturists were the most commonly consulted professionals, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics' snapshot of social trends report says that some patients with serious health conditions, such as cancer, made use of relaxation, diet, vitamins, positive imagery and faith healing.
According to the report, 42 per cent of people seeking such treatment had a 'priority health condition' such as asthma, diabetes, cancer or mental problems.
The report also revealed that these patients were 'in touch with mainstream medicine'; 32 per cent of people who had visited a complementary health therapist had consulted a doctor in the previous two weeks, rising to 63 per cent in the previous three months.
They were also more likely to have healthy lifestyles compared with the total population or those who had visited other types of health professionals.
According to the statistics, women made up half the population in 2004-05, yet they accounted for 62 per cent of people who had visited a complementary health therapist.
Most patients were aged between 25 and 64. Those under 18 accounted for 9 per cent of patients.
The report also showed that the increase in patient numbers had led to a doubling of the complementary health workforce, from 4800 to 8600 in the 10 years to 2006.
The fastest-growing group was osteopaths, which had tripled in number between 1996 and 2006 to 776, followed by acupuncturists, which had doubled in number to 948.
In the same period, the Australian population rose by 12 per cent and the total number of health professionals rose by 31 per cent, the report says.
Naturopaths, the group that had the most practitioners (2980), was made up of 79 per cent women.
Women also accounted for almost half of acupuncturists and osteopaths (49 per cent) but were least prominent among chiropractors (33 per cent).