Purpose: Interest in alternative/complementary therapies (A/CTs) is on the rise, yet little is known about adolescents' use of A/CTs. The study purpose was to examine A/CT utilization patterns among a clinic-based sample of adolescents.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 401 adolescents, aged 12-18 years, was conducted in one Midwest urban adolescent ambulatory clinic in 2002.
Results: Overall, 68.1% of the adolescents reported using one or more A/CT; most commonly, herbal medicines (27.2%), massage therapy (26.7%), and megavitamins (21.7%). Use by friends and family was the primary influence for adolescent A/CT use; lack of familiarity was the greatest reason for nonuse (53.9%). Alleviation of physical pain (66.3%) was the most common desired health outcome. Few adolescents (13.8%) disclosed A/CT use to their health care providers. Insurance coverage was provided for 10.2% of the therapies and out-of-pocket costs averaged 67 dollars/month. Age, race/ethnicity, having a health condition, taking medications, health responsibility, and work status were associated with overall A/CT use in bivariate analyses. Of these, only associations between A/CT use and race/ethnicity and health responsibility remained statistically significant after adjusting for the other variables.
Conclusions: Use of A/CTs was common among these adolescents, yet very few disclosed their use to health care providers. Providers must ask about A/CT use to gain a more complete understanding of health practices among adolescents in clinical settings. Future research is needed to better understand representative patterns of A/CT use.