Assessing the effects of race and ethnicity on use of complementary and alternative therapies in the USA

Ethn Health. 2005 Feb;10(1):19-32. doi: 10.1080/1355785052000323010.


Objective: To investigate the use of alternative therapies among different racial/ethnic groups in the USA. Specifically, we examined whether alternative medicine use differs for working aged whites, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics.

Design: Using the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, racial differences in utilization were investigated at two levels: (1) the bivariate level with no controls for other factors and (2) at the multivariate level with controls for age, sex, region, marital status, education, income, health status, satisfaction with conventional healthcare, and access measures.

Results: Americans in this sample population used alternative and complementary therapies at a fairly low rate (6.5%). This 6.5%, however, was not consistent across all groups. African Americans and Hispanics were less likely than whites to utilize alternative therapies, whereas Asian Americans did not differ significantly from whites.

Conclusions: The use of alternative and complementary therapies varied across racial/ ethnic groups. Evidence showed that individuals who were dissatisfied with the availability of conventional healthcare, who were in poor health, but very satisfied with their conventional provider were more likely to use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. The addition of these variables to a logistic regression model did not change the findings for differential use by ethnicity, the relative ranking of groups, or the overall strength of the relationship.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Continental Population Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States