Background: Little is known in the United States about those who practice t'ai chi and qigong, two mind-body techniques that originated in Asia.
Objective: The objective of this study is to characterize use of t'ai chi and qigong for health with regard to sociodemographics, health status, medical conditions, perceptions of helpfulness, and disclosure of use to medical professionals.
Methods: We analyzed associations of t'ai chi and qigong use for health using cross-sectional data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Alternative Medicine Supplement (n = 31,044). The 2002 NHIS estimated the number of t'ai chi and qigong users for health to be 2.5 and 0.5 million persons, respectively. We collapsed t'ai chi and qigong use into a single category (TCQ) for analysis, representing 2.8 million individuals.
Results: We found that neither age nor sex was associated with TCQ use. TCQ users were more likely than nonusers to be Asian than white (odds ratio [OR] 2.02, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.30-3.15), college educated (OR 2.44, 95% CI 1.97-3.03), and less likely to live in the Midwest (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.42-0.96) or the southern United States (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.36-0.72) than the West. TCQ use was associated independently with higher reports of musculoskeletal conditions (OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.11-1.83), severe sprains (OR 1.65, 95% CI 1.14-2.40), and asthma (OR 1.50, 95% CI 1.08-2.10). Half of TCQ users also used yoga for health in the last 12 months. Most TCQ users reported their practice to be important to maintain health, but only a quarter of users disclosed their practice to a medical professional.
Conclusions: In the United States, TCQ is practiced for health by a diverse population, and users report benefits for maintaining health. Further research is needed to establish efficacy and safety for target populations, including those with musculoskeletal and pulmonary disease, as well as for preventive health.