Correlates of use of alternative medicine by the elderly in an urban population

J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Jun;7(3):277-80. doi: 10.1089/107555301300328160.


Objective: To investigate the prevalence and predictors of use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by the elderly.

Design: Cross-sectional survey examining patterns of use of complementary therapies in two urban multiethnic populations of older adults.

Setting and subjects: A convenience sample of 421 older participants were interviewed at two sites: a university geriatrics primary care practice and a veterans medical clinic, both in New York City. Subjects were excluded if they did not speak English or if they were moderately cognitively impaired.

Measurement: Use of CAM within the previous year.

Results: Fifty-eight percent (58%) of all subjects surveyed used some form of CAM, and close to 75% at the university practice alone. Use correlated most strongly with female gender (p < 0.0001), greater education (p = 0.0095), thyroid disease (p = 0.0190) and arthritis (p = 0.0251). There was no correlation with income, race, age, or self-perceived health status.

Conclusions: CAM use is highly prevalent in older persons in this study, especially among females and those who are more highly educated.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Complementary Therapies / trends*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • New York City
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*