Complementary and alternative medicine use among older adults: ethnic variation

Thomas A Arcury, Cynthia K Suerken, Joseph G Grzywacz, Ronny A Bell, Wei Lang, Sara A Quandt
Ethnicity & Disease 2006, 16 (3): 723-31

OBJECTIVE: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is widely used in the United States, but information is lacking on CAM use among older minority adults. This analysis documents CAM use among Black, Hispanic, Asian, and White adults age > or =65 and delineates the importance of ethnicity in predicting CAM use.

METHODS: Data are from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The 2002 NHIS oversampled Blacks and Hispanics and included a special module on CAM use. Logistic regression models were fit to examine the effects of ethnicity, sex, age, educational attainment, number of health conditions, and US census region on any CAM use and use of CAM within five major groupings.

RESULTS: 27.7% of older adults use CAM, with the highest level of use among Asians (48.6%), followed by Hispanics (31.6%), Whites (27.7%), and Blacks (20.5%). Asian elders have significantly greater odds than Whites of using any CAM, alternative medical system, biologically based therapies, and mind-body medicine and lower odds of using body-based and manipulative methods. Hispanic elders have greater odds than Whites of using any CAM and biologically-based therapies. Black elders differ significantly from Whites only in their lesser use of body-based and manipulative methods. Overall, more women than men are CAM users. CAM use declines amongthose age > or =75 years.

CONCLUSION: CAM is an important component of older adults' health self-management, and research should examine how they learn about CAM and delineate the decision process in selecting CAM modalities.

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