Blog | Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alternative medicine use holds steady at more than 1 in 3 Americans

Approximately 38% of adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), a level that has held steady for the past five years, according to the National Institutes of Health Survey (NHIS).

Overall CAM use has remained relatively steady, from 36% in 2002 to 38% in 2007. However, use of specific therapies has varied.

The most commonly used by adults were:
--nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products (17.7%), most commonly fish oil/omega 3/DHA, glucosamine, echinacea, flaxseed and ginseng,
--deep breathing (12.7%),
--meditation (9.4%),
--chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (8.6%),
--massage (8.3%), and
--yoga (6.1%).

Adults used CAM most often to treat pain (back, neck or joint), arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Use for head or chest colds decreased from 9.5% in 2002 to 2.0% in 2007.

Americans' use of CAM for health care reinforces the need for rigorous research to study the safety and effectiveness of these therapies, said National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Director Josephine P. Briggs, MD. The data also point out the need for patients and health care providers to openly discuss CAM use to ensure safe and coordinated care.

As reported by ACP Internist in November 2007, "The challenge for internists is to keep up with the latest evidence so they are not caught off guard when patients announce they have been taking St. John's wort for depression, for example, or treating their low back pain with acupuncture." The issue also outlined easy ways for internists to open the lines of communication.

Click on More below for complete results and charts.

Survey results are based on data from more than 23,300 interviews with American adults and more than 9,400 interviews with adults on behalf a child in their household.

Consistent with results from the 2002 data, in 2007 CAM use among adults was greater among:
--women (42.8%, compared to men 33.5%)
--those aged 30-69 (30-39 years: 39.6%, 40-49 years: 40.1%, 50-59 years: 44.1%, 60-69 years: 41.0%)
--those with higher levels of education (masters, doctorate or professional: 55.4%)
--those who were not poor (poor: 28.9%, near poor: 30.9%, not poor: 43.3%)
--those living in the West (44.6%)
--those who have quit smoking (48.1%)

NCCAM also tracked children for the first time. Overall, CAM use among children is nearly 12%, or about 1 in 9 children. Children are five times more likely to use CAM if a parent or other relative uses CAM. CAM therapies were used most often for back or neck pain, head or chest colds, anxiety or stress, other musculoskeletal problems, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD).