Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies among racial and ethnic minority adults: results from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey

J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 Apr;97(4):535-45.


Purpose: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among ethnic minority populations is poorly understood. We sought to examine CAM use in Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites.

Methods: We analyzed data from the Alternative Health Supplement to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), including information on 19 different CAM therapies used in the past 12 months.

Results: An estimated 34% of Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white adults in the United States used at least one CAM therapy (excluding prayer) during the prior 12 months (2002). CAM use was highest for non-Hispanic whites (36%), followed by Hispanics (27%) and non-Hispanic blacks (26%). Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to use herbal medicine, relaxation techniques and chiropractic more frequently than Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks. After controlling for other sociodemographic factors, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black races/ethnicities were associated with less CAM use, with adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of 0.78 (0.70, 0.87) and 0.71 (0.65, 0.78), respectively. Hispanics cited using CAM because conventional medical treatments were too expensive more frequently than non-Hispanic blacks or whites. Hispanics had the highest provider nondisclosure rates (68.5%), followed by non-Hispanic blacks (65.1%) and non-Hispanic whites (58.1%).

Conclusions: Excluding prayer, Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks used CAM less frequently than non-Hispanic whites and were less likely to disclose their use to their healthcare provider. Further research is needed to improve our understanding of the disparities in CAM use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • White People / psychology*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data