Sociodemographic determinants of the utilization of specific types of complementary and alternative medicine: an analysis based on a nationally representative survey sample

J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Dec;11(6):977-94. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.977.


Objectives: To evaluate the relationships between selected sociodemographic factors and the use of particular types of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the general U.S. population. CAMs make up a heterogeneous group of practices. Although it is well established that sociodemographic factors impact the use of conventional medicine, it is unclear which, if any, influence the use of particular types of CAM.

Design: Data from a 1997-1998 nationally representative survey (n = 2055) was examined using descriptive and univariate analyses.

Results: The impact of particular sociodemographic factors was found to vary by type of CAM considered. Whites used more CAM than non-Whites except in the case of prayer. Users of CAM tended to be better educated than nonusers with the exception of prayer, self-prayer, and use of a lay midwife. Women used more CAM than men, especially weight-change diet.

Conclusions: As with conventional medicine use, the patterns of CAM use vary by individual type of therapy considered. Analytically, grouping many heterogeneous practices into the CAM category hides important differences in use patterns.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology