Use of complementary and alternative medicine among United States adults: the influences of personality, coping strategies, and social support

Keiko Honda, Judith S Jacobson
Preventive Medicine 2005, 40 (1): 46-53

BACKGROUND: Although patterns of utilization of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the community have begun to be described, few studies have addressed the relationships between dispositional psychological factors and the use of CAM. The aim of this study was to examine the associations between CAM use and personality, coping strategies, and perceived social support in a representative sample of adults in the United States.

METHODS: Data were drawn from the Midlife Development in the United States Survey (MIDUS), a representative sample of 3,032 adults aged 25-74 in the US population. We analyzed use of acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, energy healing, exercise/movement therapy, herbal medicine, high-dose megavitamins, homeopathy, hypnosis, imagery techniques, massage, prayer/spiritual practice, relaxation/mediation, and special diet within the last year. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate the association of personality, dispositional coping strategies (primary and secondary control), and perceived social support and strain with CAM use, controlling for sociodemographic factors, medical care access, and physical and mental disorders.

RESULTS: Openness was positively associated with the use of all types of CAM except manipulative body-based methods. Extroversion was inversely correlated with the use of mind-body therapies. Primary control was inversely and secondary control directly correlated with the use of CAM. Perceived friend support was positively associated with the use of mind-body therapies, manipulative body-based methods, and alternative medical systems. Perceived partner strain was positively associated with the use of biologically based therapies, and family strain increased the odds of manipulative body-based methods.

CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to document a significant association between specific domains of personality, coping strategies, and social support, and the use of CAM among adults in the general population. Understanding the relationships between psychological factors and CAM use may help researchers and health care providers to address patients' needs more effectively and to achieve better adherence to treatment recommendations.

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