Use of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States
According to a government survey, 36% of American adults aged 18 and over use some form of complementary food and alternative medicine (CAM).
What is CAM?
CAM is defined as a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not currently considered to be conventional medicine. When prayer specifically for health reasons is included in the definition of CAM, the number of American adults using some form of CAM in the past year stands at 62%.
“These new findings confirm the extent to which Americans have turned to CAM approaches in the hope that they would help treat and prevent disease and improve quality of life,” said Stephen E. Straus, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (NCCAM).
“The data not only helps us understand who uses CAM, what is used and why, but also to study the relationships between CAM use and other health characteristics, such as chronic disease, health coverage. insurance and health-related behaviors. ”
CAM survey conducted by the government in 2002
The survey, administered to more than 31,000 representative American adults, was conducted as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2002 National Health Survey (NHIS).
Developed by the NCCAM and the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the survey included questions on 27 types of CAM therapies commonly used in the United States. These included 10 types of provider-based therapies, such as acupuncture and chiropractic, and 17 other therapies that do not require a provider, such as natural products (herbs or botanicals), special diets, and megavitamin therapy.
Although there have been many surveys of CAM use to date, the various surveys included fewer choices for CAM therapy. Additionally, they often surveyed smaller population samples relying primarily on telephone or mail surveys rather than the in-person interviews used for this survey. Thus, the results of the CAM portion of the NHIS provide the most comprehensive and reliable data to date describing the use of CAMs by the American adult population.
Overall, the survey found that CAM use was higher among a variety of population groups, including women, those with higher education, those who had been hospitalized during the previous year and former smokers, compared to current smokers or those who had never smoked.
Moreover, it was the first survey to provide substantive information on the use of CAMs by minorities. For example, he found that African American adults were more likely than white or Asian adults to use CAM when megavitamin therapy and prayer were included in the definition of CAM.
“We are continually expanding the health information we collect in this country, including information on the actions people take to deal with their own health issues,” said NCHS Director Edward J. Sondik, Ph.D.
“Over the years, we have focused on traditional medical treatment, but this new collection of CAM data takes a whole new dimension. What we are seeing is that a significant percentage of the population is putting their personal health in their hands. ”
How CAM was used
CAM approaches were most often used to treat back pain or problems, colds, neck pain or problems, joint pain or stiffness, and anxiety or depression, according to the survey.
However, only about 12% of adults have sought care from a licensed MAC practitioner, suggesting that most people who use MACs do so without consulting a practitioner.
The most common CAM therapies
According to the survey, the 10 most commonly used MAC therapies and the approximate percentage of American adults using each therapy were:
- Prayer for own health, 43%
- Prayers of others for the health of the respondent, 24%
- Natural products (such as herbs, other medicinal plants, and enzymes), 19%
- Deep breathing exercises, 12%
- Participation in a prayer group for own health, 10%
- Meditation, 8%
- Chiropractic care, 8%
- Yoga, 5%
- Massage, 5%
- Diet-based therapies (such as Atkins, Pritikin, Ornish and Zone diets), 4%
Why people use CAM
In addition to collecting data on the use of CAM practices, the survey also sought information on the reasons why people use CAM. The main findings indicate that:
- 55% of adults said they were most likely to use CAM because they believed it would help them when combined with conventional medical treatments
- 50% thought CAM would be interesting to try
- 26% used CAM because a mainstream healthcare professional suggested they try it
- 13% used CAM because they thought conventional medicine was too expensive
Interestingly, the survey also found that around 28% of adults used CAM because they believed that conventional medical treatments would not help them with their health problem. This contrasts with previous findings that MAC users are not, in general, dissatisfied with conventional medicine.
The survey results reveal new patterns of CAM use among various population groups and provide a rich source of data for future research. Additionally, the survey results provide a baseline for future surveys, as they establish a consistent definition of CAM that can be used to track trends and prevalence of CAM use.
NCCAM, a component of the National Institutes of Health, DHHS, is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training researchers in CAM, and disseminating information about authority to the public and to professionals. For more information, call the NCCAM Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226 or visit the NCCAM website at nccam.nih.gov.
The NCHS is a component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The mission of the NCHS is to provide statistical information that will guide actions and policies aimed at improving the health of the American people. The CDC protects the health and safety of people by preventing and controlling disease and injury; improves health decisions by providing credible information on critical health problems; and promotes a healthy lifestyle through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.