Overall Use of CAM by U.S. Adults Remains Steady, but Some Therapy Use Varies

Approximately 38% of adults in the united states aged 18 years and older and nearly 12% of U.S. children aged 17 years and younger use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to a nationwide government survey conducted in 2007. In a similar 2002 survey, 36% of U.S. adults reported using CAM, but there has been substantial variation between the two surveys in the use of some specific CAM therapies.

The survey, conducted as part of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), was developed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a part of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey included questions on 36 types of CAM therapies commonly used in the United States—10 types of provider-based therapies, such as acupuncture and chiropractic, and 26 other therapies that do not require a provider, such as herbal supplements and meditation.

The 2007 survey results, released in a National Health Statistics Report by NCHS, are based on data from more than 23,300 interviews with American adults and more than 9,400 interviews with adults on behalf of a child in their household. The 2007 survey marks the first time questions were included on children's use of CAM.

According to the 2007 survey, the most commonly used CAM therapies among U.S. adults were (the 2002 percentages are included for those therapies that showed significant increases):

• Nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products (17.7%). The most common were fish oil/omega-3/DHA, glucosamine, echinacea, flaxseed oil or pills, and ginseng. (The reference period for the use of specific nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products was reduced from 12 months in 2002, to 30 days in 2007.)

• Deep breathing exercises (12.7% vs 11.6% in 2002)

• Meditation (9.4% vs 7.6% in 2002)

• Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (8.6%)

• Massage (8.3% vs 5.0% in 2002)

• Yoga (6.1% vs 5.1% in 2002)

Adults used CAM most often to treat pain including back pain or problems, neck pain or problems, joint pain or stiffness/other joint condition, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. Adult use of CAM therapies for head or chest colds showed a marked decrease from 2002 to 2007 (9.5% in 2002 to 2.0% in 2007).

Consistent with results from the 2002 data, in 2007 CAM use among adults was greater among:

• Women (42.8% compared to 33.5% of men)

• Those aged 30-69 (30-39 years: 39.6%; 40-49 years: 40.1%; 50-59 years: 44.1%; 60-69 years: 41.0%)

• Those with higher levels of education (Master's, doctorate, or professional: 55.4%)

• Those who were not poor (poor: 28.9%; near poor: 30.9%; not poor: 43.3%)

• Those living in the West (44.6%)

• Those who have quit smoking (48.1%)

The survey showed that overall CAM use among children is nearly 12%, or about one in nine children. Children are five times more likely to use CAM if a parent or other relative uses CAM. Other characteristics of adult and child CAM users are similar—factors such as socioeconomic status, geographic region, the number of health conditions, the number of doctor visits in the last 12 months, and delaying or not receiving conventional care because of cost are all associated with CAM use.

Among children who used CAM in the past 12 months, CAM therapies were used most often for back or neck pain, head or chest colds, anxiety or stress, other musculoskeletal problems, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The most commonly used CAM therapies among children were:

• Nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products (3.9%). The most common were echinacea, fish oil/omega-3/DHA, combination herb pill, flaxseed oil or pills, and prebiotics or probiotics.

• Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (2.8%)

• Deep breathing exercises (2.2%)

• Yoga (2.1%)

"The 2007 NHIS provides the most current, comprehensive, and reliable source of information on Americans' use of CAM," says Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of NCCAM. "These statistics confirm that CAM practices are a frequently used component of Americans' health care regimens, and reinforce the need for rigorous research to study the safety and effectiveness of these therapies. The data also point out the need for patients and health care providers to openly discuss CAM use to ensure safe and coordinated care."

For the full report and downloadable graphics, visit http://nccam.nih.gov/news/camstats.htm.