The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released ﬁndings on Americans’ use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The ﬁndings are from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an annual in-person survey of Americans regarding their health and illness related experiences. The CAM section gathered information on 23,393 adults aged 18 years or older and 9,417 children aged 17 years and under. Of interest to many of our readers, treatments such as biofeedback, diaphragmatic breathing, hypnosis, meditation, guided imagery, and progressive relaxation are included in the analysis.
CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Integrative medicine combines conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness. While scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies – questions such as whether these therapies are safe and whether they work for the purposes for which they are used. NCCAM’s mission is to explore CAM practices using rigorous scientific methods and build an evidence base for the safety and effectiveness of these practices.
How Many People Use CAM
In the United States, approximately 38 percent of adults (about 4 in 10) and approximately 12 percent of children (about 1 in 9) are using some form of CAM, shown in ﬁgure 1.
Who Uses CAM Most
People of all backgrounds use CAM. However, CAM use among adults is greater among women and those with higher levels of education and higher incomes. Figure 2 shows the percentage of people using CAM by age. Figure 3 shows CAM use by race/ethnicity.
CAM Therapies Used the Most
Nonvitamin, nonmineral natural products are the most commonly used CAM therapy among adults. Use has increased for several therapies, including deep breathing exercises, meditation, assage therapy, and yoga. Figure 4 shows the percentage of people using the most common CAM therapies and therapies with significant increases between 2002 and 2007.
Use of Natural Products
The most popular natural products are ﬁsh oil/omega 3, glucosamine, echinacea, and ﬂaxseed. Figure 5 ranks the top 10 natural products used among adults in 2007 and 2002 (note that the 2007 survey asked about use in the last 30 days, whereas the 2002 survey asked about use in the last year).
Health Conditions Prompting CAM Use
People use CAM for an array of diseases and conditions. American adults are most likely to use CAM for musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck, or joint pain. The use of CAM therapies for head or chest colds showed a substantial decrease from 2002 to 2007. Figure 6 ranks the top 10 conditions prompting CAM use among adults for 2007 and 2002.
CAM Use Among Children
The 2007 NHIS asked selected adult respondents about CAM use by children in their households. Overall, approximately 12 percent of children use some form of CAM. Use is greater among:
- Children whose parents used CAM (23.9%)
- Adolescents aged 12-17 (16.4%), compared to younger children
- White children (12.8%), compared to Hispanic children (7.9%) and black children (5.9%)
- Children whose parents had higher education levels (more than high school: 14.7%)
- Children with six or more health conditions (23.8%)
- Children whose families delayed conventional care because of cost (16.9%)
Figures 7-9 show survey ﬁndings on CAM use by children, including top therapies, natural products, and diseases/conditions.
In short, this data suggests that more and more Americans now rely on Complementary And Alternative Medicine for their health-care needs.
Adapted by CFisher from:
Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin R. CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007. December 2008. Downloaded at nccam.nih.gov/news/camstats.htm