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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Older adults' use of complementary and alternative medicine for mental health: findings from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey

Joseph G Grzywacz, Cynthia K Suerken, Sara A Quandt, Ronny A Bell, Wei Lang, Thomas A Arcury
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice, and Policy 2006, 12 (5): 467-73
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OBJECTIVES: To compare complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among adults 65 and older with and without self-reported anxiety or depression, and to investigate the prevalence and predictors of CAM use for treatment by persons with anxiety or depression.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.

SETTINGS/LOCATION: Computer-assisted interviews conducted in participants' homes.

SUBJECTS: Subjects included 5827 adults aged 65 and older who participated in the 2002 National Health Interview Survey including the Alternative Health Supplement.

INTERVENTION: None.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Overall use of CAM, use of four categories of CAM, and use of 20 CAM modalities. CAM use for treatment of any health condition, and CAM use to treat mental health.

RESULTS: Eighty-one and seven tenths percent (81.7%) of older adults with self-reported anxiety or depression who used CAM in the past year, whereas 64.6% of older adults without these conditions used CAM. Differences in CAM use were driven by elevated use of spiritual practices, relaxation techniques, and use of nonvitamin, nonmineral natural products by patients with symptoms of mental conditions. Fewer than 20% of CAM users with self-reported anxiety or depression used CAM for their mental health. Few personal and health-related factors predicted CAM use for treatment among older adults with self-reported anxiety or depression.

CONCLUSIONS: Older adults with self-reported anxiety or depression were more likely to use spiritual practices, relaxation techniques, and nonvitamin, nonmineral natural products than elders in good mental health. However, for the majority of older adults with self-reported anxiety or depression, CAM was used for purposes other than treating mental health.

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