Complementary and alternative medicine use among American women: findings from The National Health Interview Survey, 2002

Dawn M Upchurch, Laura Chyu, Gail A Greendale, Jessica Utts, Yali A Bair, Guili Zhang, Ellen B Gold
Journal of Women's Health 2007, 16 (1): 102-13

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among Americans is high, especially among women, but a national profile of women CAM users has yet to be characterized. This study identified sociodemographic, health, and lifestyle factors associated with use of various types of CAM among women in the United States and examined health conditions and reasons for use.

METHODS: Data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, were analyzed (n = 17,295 women). Any recent use of CAM as well as specific types of CAM (e.g., biologically based therapies) use were analyzed; prayer was considered separately. Prevalence estimates and logistic regression results were weighted, and variance estimates were adjusted for complex sample design.

RESULTS: About 40% of women reported any recent CAM use. Biologically based therapies (23.8%) were the most frequently reported CAM type, followed by mind-body therapies (20.9%). User characteristics were generally similar across specific CAM types; there were some differences between women who used CAM and women who prayed for health. Women frequently reported using CAM in conjunction with conventional medicine and to treat chronic pain conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides a comprehensive profile of recent CAM use among a national sample of American women, including user characteristics and reasons and conditions for use. Widespread CAM use reflects a social phenomenon of healthcare-seeking practices that can potentially inform public health strategies for health promotion and disease prevention.

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