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More than one-third of US adults use complementary and alternative medicine

on, they often surveyed smaller population samples primarily relying on telephone or mail surveys versus in-person interviews used for this survey. Thus, the results from the CAM portion of the NHIS provide the most comprehensive and reliable data to date describing CAM use by the U.S. adult population.

Overall, the survey revealed that CAM use was greater among a variety of population groups, including women; people with higher education; those who had been hospitalized within the past year; and former smokers, compared to current smokers or those who had never smoked. In addition, this was the first survey to yield substantial information on CAM use by minorities.

For example, it 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're continuously expanding the health information we collect in this country, including information on the actions people take in dealing with their own health situations," said NCHS Director Edward J. Sondik, Ph.D. "Over the years we've concentrated on traditional medical treatment, but this new collection of CAM data taps into another dimension entirely. What we see is that a sizable percentage of the public puts their personal health into their own hands."

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. However, only about 12 percent of adults sought care from a licensed CAM practitioner, suggesting that most people who use CAM do so without consulting a practitioner. According to the survey, the 10 most commonly used CAM therapies and the approximate percent of U.S. adults using each therapy were:

  • Prayer for own health, 43 percent
  • Prayer by others for the respondent's health, 24 percent
  • Natural products (such as herbs,
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Contact: NCCAM Press Office
301-496-7790
NIH/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
27-May-2004


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