Ethno-Cultural Factors of Demand for Alternative Practices in the Field of Physical and Mental Health



Objective. Study aims to investigate the ethno-cultural factors of demand for alternative practices in the sphere of health and psychological well-being among Russian youth.
Background. The decision to seek help is critical to the health and psychological well-being of the individual and society. Turning to non-conventional practices (psychic, paranormal, etc.) to solve problems in the field of both physical and mental health and psychological well-being can be associated with potential risks.
Study design. Quantitative cross-sectional study of adolescents and youth in several Russian regions: Saint-Petersburg and Leningradskaya region, Irkutsk, Murmansk and Tomsk regions, Kamchatka and Krasnoyarsk regions, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Data collection was carried out in the form of an online survey in November-December 2020.
Participants. The study sample consisted of 1258 adolescents and young people aged 14 years and older, of which 671 are adolescents and young people who identify themselves as indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation. Young men constituted 33% of the sample, mean age – 22,1 years (min = 14, max = 35; SD = 6,26).
Measurements. The several scales for assessing the help-seeking and related attitudes towards alternative practices, self-assessment of mental health (HBSC scale). Descriptive statistics, contingency tables to assess differences by ethnicity and gender and a logistic regression model predicting intention to future use of the services were calculated.
Results. Young people's appeal to providers of alternative practices of help (magicians, fortune-tellers, psychics, etc.) has no ethno-cultural specifics. The youth of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East significantly more often than the youth of another ethnicity turn only to shamans, who are part of the unique spiritual culture of these ethnic groups but not to any other group of practitioners.
Conclusions. Asking for help from different representatives of alternative assistance is interconnected, which may be the result of "teenager experimentation" in different areas of life, or openness to new experience, including in relation to the search for different types of help. The second important factor of use of alternative services is the distrust of official medicine, which motivates people to use alternative types of health care (turning to shamans, fortune tellers, magicians, sorcerers, etc.).

General Information

Keywords: mental health; physical health; psychological well-being; ethno-cultural factors of health; alternative help; fortune-tellers; astrologers; shamans; trust in medicine; indigenous people

Journal rubric: Empirical Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Science Foundation (RSF), project number 22-28-01792,

Received: 15.04.2023


For citation: Antonova N.A., Eritsyan K.Y. Ethno-Cultural Factors of Demand for Alternative Practices in the Field of Physical and Mental Health. Sotsial'naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2023. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 49–65. DOI: 10.17759/sps.2023140204. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Natalia A. Antonova, PhD in Psychology, Assistant Professor at Psychology Institute, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ksenia Y. Eritsyan, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Ar-ea Studies, HSE University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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