Respondents were more likely to use alternative medicine if they said they were in poor health and if they reported more problems with daily activities, such as carrying groceries, eating or bathing.
Of those who described their health as poor, 65 percent said they used some form of alternative medicine they considered preventive or curative a higher percentage than among any other group. And about 63 percent of respondents who said they were not satisfied with their health care also tried alternative therapies classified as preventive or curative.
"Older adults tend to have more chronic illnesses, and conventional medicine doesn't always solve their problems," Hong said.
The aches and pains that often come with age may also send more older adults to search for different kinds of treatments.
"Treatment of chronic pain is very difficult," she said. "People who are living with pain will try everything possible to alleviate it. Those taking a holistic approach toward life may try something else such as alternative medicine."
However, the exact reasons why these older adults used alternative medicine is not known from this research and needs further study, Hong said. The fact that those who were less satisfied with their health care were more likely to use alternative medicine does suggest some people have issues with the current state of conventional health care.
Hong said the medical establishment has begun studying alternative medicine and has begun to accept some forms of non-traditional medicine. But more study needs to be done before they are generally accepted.
"Many people are using herbal medicines or massage therapy or other treatments based on what they read in popular magazines or see on television," Hong said.
"More scientific research is needed to examine the safety and effectiveness of alternative medicines, especially about possible i
Contact: Gong-Soog Hong
Ohio State University