Objective: Higher socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in national surveys. Less is known about how socioeconomic factors affect CAM use in US subpopulations. We examined whether the relationship between SES and CAM use differs by racial/ethnic groups.
Methods: Using national survey data, we assessed education and income effects on women's CAM use in four racial/ethnic groups (Whites, Blacks, Mexican Americans, and Chinese Americans), controlling for age, health status, and geographic region. CAM use was defined as using any of 11 domains in the prior year.
Results: Adjusted effects of SES on CAM use were similar among Mexican American and non-Hispanic White women--education had a distinct gradient effect, with each increasing level of education significantly more likely to use CAM; household income > or = $60,000 was associated with CAM use compared to income < $20,000. For Chinese American women, socioeconomic factors were not associated with CAM use when controlling for confounders. Although income was not associated with CAM use among African American women, college graduates were three times more likely to use CAM than those with less than a high school education, adjusting for confounders.
Conclusion: SES effects on CAM use are not uniform across racial/ethnic populations. Other factors, such as culture and social networks, may interact with SES to influence CAM use in minority populations.