Health Strategies

Measuring watch

(Se dansk resume nedenfor)

Project period: 2009–2014

A growing proportion of the Danish population use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In fact, almost half of the adult population has sought out CAM at some point. These treatment forms exist outside the state subsidised health care system and are therefore expensive compared to conventional medical care. Furthermore, the effects of complementary and alternative medicine often lacks scientific basis. Whyis it then that they are so popular?

The aim of the research project was to analyse social and cultural aspects of different medical systems. A premise for the project was that patients and users of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments experienced effects that are different from those of the conventional health care system. But what were these ‘effects’ and how did they contribute to an understanding of the increasing use of CAM?






Alternative medicine as a sociological field of study

This research project addressed a number of issues raised by recent developments in the treatment of disease, as well as in disease prevention and health promotion in Denmark. Health care has been ‘democratised’ due to an increase in the private market for both conventional and non-conventional treatments. Examples of this included private hospitals offering selected biomedical treatments, growing use of alternative and complementary medicine, and increasing numbers of alternative practitioners, who have been eligible to apply for state registration since 2004. Consequently, the supply of techniques for treatment, disease prevention, and bodily modifications and enhancements had increased dramatically. This had raised accessibility for individuals, but also concerns on a congregated level, e.g. about the individualisation of the responsibility for health maintenance.

Aim of the research project

The aim of this research project was to shed light on social and cultural aspects of medical practices, especially from the perspective of users, patients and practitioners involved in non-conventional forms of medicine.

The research project consisted of three studies that analysed alternative and complementary treatments. The project was inspired by a wide range of theories including phenomenological theory, micro-sociology and science and technology studies (STS).

An important goal for the project participants was to develop methodological and theoretical tools to assess from a social science perspective.







Project I: Body work and body talk: Felt experiences with alternative medicine
A study of the users’ experiences of acupuncture, reflexology and mindfulness meditation.
Contact: Associate professor, PhD Inge Kryger Pedersen and associate professor, PhD Charlotte Baarts.

Project II: Alternative junctions: A qualitative study of asthma patients' experiences with the combination of alternative and conventional treatments
A study of asthma patients who are treated with both alternative methods (reflexology and homeopathy) and conventional biomedicine.
Contact: Associate professor, PhD Inge Kryger Pedersen.

Project III: Techniques of building trust: Alternative practitioners's perspectives
A study of the techniques and practices of alternative practitioners in reflexology, acupuncture and mindfulness meditation.
Contact: Postdoc Kristina Grünenberg.























Papers (peer-reviewed journals)
  • Pedersen, Inge Kryger, Hansen, Vibeke Holm & Grünenberg, Kristina: The Emergence of Trust in Clinics of Alternative Medicine (submitted October 2014 to Sociology of Health & Illness)
  • Grünenberg, Kristina: Susceptible bodies: Exploring the emergence of susceptibility in the CAM practices of acupuncture and reflexology. (Submitted November 2014 to ‘Health’: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, Sage).
  • Pedersen, Inge Kryger: Lytninger i alternativ behandling – en fænomenologisk analyse [’Listenings’ in session-based alternative medicine: A phenomenological analysis]. Tidsskriftet Antropologi, 69, 2014, 45-63.
  • Pedersen, Inge Kryger: ’It can do no harm’: Body maintenance and modification in alternative medicine acknowledged as a non-risk health regimen. Social Science & Medicine, 90, 2013, 56-62. Pedersen, Inge Kryger & Baarts, Charlotte: ‘Fantastic Hands’ – but no Evidence: The Construction of Expertise by Users of CAM, Social Science & Medicine, 2010, 71, 1068-75.
  • Baarts, Charlotte: Stuck in the middle: Research ethics caught. Qualitative Research, 9(4), 2009, 423-439.
  • Pedersen, Inge Kryger: I grænselandet mellem optimering og helbredelse. Alternativ behandling som medicinsk forbedringsteknologi [In the Borderland between Optimization and Healing: Alternative Medicine seen in the Perspective of Medical Enhancement Technologies], Tidsskrift for Forskning i Sygdom og Samfund, 11, 2009, 87-103.
  • Baarts, Charlotte & Pedersen, Inge Kryger: Derivative Benefits: Exploring the Body through Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Sociology of Health & Illness, 31(5), 2009, 719-733.

Pedersen, Inge Kryger (with the co-operation of Matilde Høybye-Mortensen, Reinhard Stelter & Charlotte Baarts): Kampen med kroppen. Alternativ behandling i et bruger- og samfundsperspektiv [The struggle with the body: Alternative medicine in a sociological perspective], 2012. Århus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag.

Working papers
  • Baarts, C: Risk in Action – reflexology users’ construction of outcomes of reflexology.
  • Hansen, V.H.: A natural cure. Patients’ views of conventional and alternative treatment for asthma.
  • Hansen, V.H.: When Medicines Meet. The logic of care in conventional and alternative medicine.
Oral presentations/papers at scientific conferences
  • Pedersen, I.K., Grünenberg, K. & Hansen, V.H.: The Emergence of Trust in Clinics of Alternative Medicine XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, July 2014.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: Uncertainties and trust in alternative medicine. Danish Sociology Congress, Copenhagen, January 2014.
  • Pedersen, I.K., Hansen, V.H. & Grünenberg, K.: "Creating Trust among Users of Alternative Medicine". Nordic Sociology Congress, Reykjavik, August 2012.
  • Hansen, V.H. & Pedersen, I.K.: "Creating Health: Asthma Patients' Experiences of Trust when Combining Conventional and Alternative Medicine". Nordic Sociology Congress, Reykjavik, August 2012.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: ”You are free from unwanted side-effects”. Alternative medicine acknowledged as a no-risk health regime". The Sociology of Risk - Theoretical Perspectives. An international conference at University of Copenhagen, January 2011.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: Hvad er en effekt? Kropslige oplevelser blandt brugere af alternative behandlingsformer [What is an effect? Bodily experiences among users of alternative medicine] Danish Sociology Congress, Aalborg, January 2011.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: “Somatopia: In the Borderland between Optimization and Healing", Making the Future: Sociological Approaches to Models and Projections in Economics, Health and Climate Change, Research Seminar, University of Copenhagen, October 2010.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: "Alternative medicine acknowledged as a no-risk health regime: A sociological perspective on CAM clients’ bodily experiences", ICCMR 2010, The 5th International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research, Tromsø, May 2010.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: Optimering eller helbredelse? Alternativ behandling som medicinsk forbedringsteknologi  (Optimization or curing? Alternative medicine as an enhancement technology]. Danish Sociology Congress, Copenhagen, January 2010.
  • Grünenberg, K: Healing relations? An exploration of the ideas and practices of practitioner relationships in acupuncture and reflexology. Danish Sociology Congress, Copenhagen, January 2010.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: “'Fantastic Hands' – but no Evidence: The Construction of Expertise by Users of CAM". Re-visiting Expertise. On Experts and Knowledge, Conference at Dept. of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen, November 2009.
  • Pedersen, I.K.: "'You are free from unwanted side-effects': Alternative medicine acknowledged as a no-risk health regime". The 9th conference of European Sociological Association, Lisboa, September, 2009.

(Please notice that data from the project has been included in further articles published after the formal completion of the project.







Mostly, we publish in English, however, we have published in Danish as well to share our knowledge with Danish academics outside the field of sociology. Moreover, we share our knowledge with the society outside academia, for example with readers of newspapers, listeners of the national radio broadcast and popular science journals, e-journals included.

  • 30 minutes’ interview by Mikkel Krause-Jensen about ‘Sandheder om alternativ behandling’ [Truths about alternative medicine]. In: Apropos, P1 (Danish national radio broadcast), March 12, 2014,
  • ‘Mangler vi nye metoder til at teste alternativ behandling?’ by Ditte Svane-Knudsen. In: (e-journal about science), September 25, 2013.
  • ’Brugere af alternativ behandling: Det kan ikke skade at prøve’ by Anders Boas. In: (e-journal about science), Aug. 13, 2013.
  • ‘Danskerne har ændret syn på alternativ behandling’ by Else Marie Nygaard. In: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish newspaper), Jan. 25, 2013,
  • 30 minutes’ interview by Annette K. Nielsen about the book Kampen med kroppen. Alternativ behandling i et bruger- og samfundsperspektiv (The Body in Borderland: Alternative Medicine in a Sociological Perspective), Aarhus Universitetsforlag. In: Faglitteratur på P1 (Danish national radio broadcast), Dec. 17, 2012,!/
  • ‘Alternativerne vinder frem’ by Henrik Jensen. In: Berlingske (Danish newspaper),  June 15, 2012,
Book reviews



















Associate professor, Phd, Inge Kryger Pedersen
Department of Sociology
Phone: +45 35 32 32 29





















The project was funded by:

Danish Council for Independent Research

The project was funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research for the Social Sciences (FSE) under the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation.

Project: Health Strategies
PI: Inge Kryger Pedersen
Start: 2009
End: 2014