Effects of Complementary Therapy on Health in a National U.S. Sample of Older Adults

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jul;16(7):701-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0442.


Objectives: The study objectives were to identify types of complementary therapy that are most predictive of health outcomes, including functional status, physical health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and mental HRQoL among older adults.

Design: This was a prospective study.

Settings/location: The study comprised computer-assisted interviews conducted in participants' homes.

Subjects: Subjects included 1683 adults aged 55 and older who participated in the 2002 National Health Interview Survey and the 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Intervention: None.

Outcome measures: Functional status, physical HRQoL, and mental HRQoL at 1-year follow-up.

Results: The use of biologically based therapies predicted better functional status, such that users reported less functional impairment than nonusers (p < 0.01), adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, health insurance, household income, and comorbid conditions. Users of manipulative and body-based methods reported less functional impairment (p < 0.05). They also reported better physical and mental health-related quality of life, though these relationships were marginally significant. Other groups of therapies, alternative medical systems, mind-body therapies, and prayer were not predictive of either functional status or HRQoL.

Conclusions: Favorable effects were observed among users of biologically based therapies and users of manipulative and body-based methods. Other types of complementary therapy had no effects on health status over a 1-year follow-up period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chelation Therapy
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations
  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States