Use of complementary and alternative medicine and self-rated health status: results from a national survey

J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Apr;26(4):399-404. doi: 10.1007/s11606-010-1542-3. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


Background: Despite the absence of conclusive evidence of effectiveness, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used by 4 of 10 adults in the US; little is known about the association between CAM use and health status.

Objective: To determine the relation between CAM use and self-reported health status and health improvement over time.

Design and participants: We performed a secondary database analysis using data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey of non-institutionalized US residents conducted by the National Center of Health Statistics of the Center for Disease Control. We identified CAM users and compared them to non-users. We used multivariable logistic regression to model the health status of respondents. We controlled for confounders including socio-demographic, clinical, and behavioral factors. The models were evaluated for discrimination and calibration.

Main measures: The likelihood of respondents to report 'Excellent' current health and 'Better' health than in the prior year.

Key results: Based on 23,393 respondents, we found 37% of U.S. adults used complementary and alternative medicine and 63% did not use any CAM. Compared to those who did not use CAM, CAM users were more likely to rate their health as 'Excellent' (adjusted-odds ratio (AOR) = 1.14, 95% CI = [1.03,1.26]). Similarly, CAM users were more likely to report their health as 'Better' than in the prior year (AOR = 1.64, 95% CI = [1.49,1.83]). The c-statistics for the two models were 0.755 and 0.616, respectively.

Conclusion: We found a significant association between CAM use and self-rated excellent health and health improvement over the prior year. Prospective trials are required to determine whether CAM use is causally related to excellent health status and better health than in the prior year.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Complementary Therapies / trends
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys* / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult