Race/ethnicity and women's use of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States: results of a national survey

Am J Public Health. 2006 Jul;96(7):1236-42. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2004.047688. Epub 2006 May 30.


Objectives: We studied the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among women in 4 racial/ethnic groups: non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Chinese Americans.

Methods: We obtained a nationally representative sample of women aged 18 years and older living in the United States in 2001. Oversampling obtained 800 interviews in each group, resulting in a sample of 3068 women.

Results: Between one third and one half of the members of all groups reported using at least 1 CAM modality in the year preceding the survey. In bivariate analyses, overall CAM use among Whites surpassed that of other groups; however, when CAM use was adjusted for socioeconomic factors, use by Whites and Mexican Americans were equivalent. Despite the socioeconomic disadvantage of African American women, socioeconomic factors did not account for differences in CAM use between Whites and African Americans.

Conclusions: CAM use among racial/ethnic groups is complex and nuanced. Patterns of CAM use domains differ among groups, and multivariate models of CAM use indicate that ethnicity plays an independent role in the use of CAM modalities, the use of CAM practitioners, and the health problems for which CAM is used.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Asian Americans / psychology*
  • Asian Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mexican Americans / psychology*
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Whites / psychology*
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data