Alternative mind-body therapies used by adults with medical conditions

J Psychosom Res. 2009 Jun;66(6):511-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.12.003. Epub 2009 Mar 3.


Objective: Mind-body therapies (MBT) are used by 16.6% of adults in the United States. Little is known about the patterns of and reasons for use of MBT by adults with common medical conditions.

Methods: We analyzed data on MBT use from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey Alternative Medicine Supplement (n=31,044). MBT included relaxation techniques (deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation), yoga, tai chi, and qigong. To identify medical conditions associated with use of MBT overall and of individual MBT, we used multivariable models adjusted for sociodemographic factors, insurance status, and health habits. Among users of MBT (n=5170), we assessed which medical conditions were most frequently treated with MBT, additional rationale for using MBT, and perceived helpfulness.

Results: We found a positive association between MBT use and several medical conditions including various pain syndromes and anxiety/depression. Among adults using MBT to treat specific medical conditions, MBT was most commonly used for anxiety/depression and musculoskeletal pain syndromes. More than 50% of respondents used MBT in conjunction with conventional medical care, and 20% used MBT for conditions they thought conventional medicine would not help. Overall, we found high rates (68-90%) of perceived helpfulness of MBT for specific medical conditions.

Discussion: MBT is commonly used by patients with prevalent medical conditions. Further research is needed to determine the reasons for widespread use of MBT for treatment of specific medical conditions and to evaluate the efficacy of MBT.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychophysiology*
  • Young Adult