Alternative medicine in Danish hospitals

Almost a third of the hospitals in Denmark apply acupuncture.

Every eighth hospital is engaged in an ongoing research
project on alternative medicine.

Alternative medicine is more commonly used in large hospitals than in small hospitals and it is used for a comprehensive range of services, e.g. cancer and birth services.

Use of alternative medicine

31 % of the Danish hospitals apply alternative medicine. The use of alternative medicine is

  • more commonly used in somatic hospitals (33 %) than in psychiatric hospitals (23 %).
  • more commonly used in public hospitals (34 %) than in private hospitals (21 %).
  • more commonly used in large hospitals with 100 or more beds (39 %) than in small hospitals with less than 100 beds (22 %).
The most commonly used type of alternative treatment is acupuncture (97%).

The treatments are provided by a person within the conventional health care system, e.g. a physiotherapist, a midwife, a medical practitioner or a nurse.

Reasons for using alternative medicine

The hospitals state the reasons for using alternative medicine as

  • Scientific evidence (32 %)
  • Treatment without side effects (21 %)
  • Interest of the medical staff (21 %)
  • Other reasons (18 %)
  • Interest of the patients (8 %)

42 % of the hospitals using alternative medicine are engaged in ongoing research projects on alternative medicine.

Fields where alternative medicine is used

Alternative medicine is used in many fields of medicine for a comprehensive range of services

  • Birth services
  • Pain treatment services
  • Haematology services
  • Psychiatric services
  • Cancer services
  • Anaesthesia/surgical services
  • Abuse/detoxification services
  • Palliative care services

About the study

The study is based on a questionnaire sent to the medical directors at all public and private hospitals in Denmark. 126 medical directors answered the questionnaire, which is equivalent to a 97 % response rate.

In 32 of the 39 hospitals that apply alternative medicine in Denmark, contact persons for the alternative treatments offered at the hospitals were interviewed or asked to fill out a more elaborate questionnaire.

The study is a co-operation between researchers from the Interdisciplinary CAM-research unit (KUFAB) at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and researchers from the National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NAFKAM), Norway.

The study was published in 2011.


The study is published in the international journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Use of complementary and alternative medicine at Norwegian and Danish hospitals