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Use of complementary and alternative medicine among American women

      Introduction and background

      Although women are increasingly using complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies, a national profile characterizing women who use CAM has yet to be described. The purpose of this study is to provide prevalence estimates of recent CAM use among American women and to examine sociodemographic and other characteristics associated with use.

      Methods

      Data from the 1999 National Health Interview Survey are used for the analysis. Three operational definitions of recent CAM use are employed (any CAM, type-specific, and domain-specific use). All proportions and prevalence estimates are weighted and standard errors are adjusted to account for complex sample design; weighted logistic regression (with coefficient variance adjustment) is also used.

      Results

      Overall, 33.5% of American women used CAM in the past 12 months. Spiritual healing/prayer and herbal medicine are the most commonly used, and hypnosis, biofeedback, and energy healing are the least common. Multivariate results show that women who are older, have more education, poorer health, or live in the west or midwest (versus south) are more likely to use CAM. Compared to whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are less likely to use CAM. Foreign-born women, those with lower income, or who live in the Northeast are also less likely to use CAM. Insurance status is not independently associated with CAM use.

      Conclusions and discussion

      This study provides one of the first comprehensive investigations of CAM use among American women. Future research examining the determinants of CAM use, incorporating attitudinal and health conditions, as well as clinical efficacy, effectiveness, and health outcome studies of specific CAM therapies are warranted.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      Dawn Upchurch is a professor of Public Health at UCLA and has a long-standing interest in women’s reproductive health. Currently, she is researching CAM use among women, with a particular emphasis on acupuncture and women’s reproductive health at midlife.

      Biography

      Laura Chyu is a doctoral student in the UCLA School of Public Health. Her interests lie in women’s reproductive health and fertility trends, specifically focusing on racial/ethnic disparities and effects of nativity status.