Spiritual and Religious Identities Predict the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Among US Adults

Prev Med. 2012 Jan;54(1):9-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.08.029. Epub 2011 Aug 26.


Objective: To determine whether spiritual and religious identities predict complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use above and beyond other known influences such as gender, region of residence, social status, personality, health, and access to conventional medicine.

Methods: Analyzing data from the 1995-1996 National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (n=3032), this study examines the correlations between four aspects of spirituality/religiousness-i.e., spiritual only, religious only, both spiritual and religious, and neither spiritual nor religious-and six measures of CAM.

Results: Compared with spiritual only persons, the odds of using energy therapies are 86% lower for spiritual and religious persons, 65% lower for religious only persons, and 52% lower for neither spiritual nor religious persons. Compared to spiritual only persons, spiritual and religious individuals are 43% more likely to use body-mind therapies in general; however, when this category does not contain prayer, meditation, or spiritual healing, they are 44% less likely. Religious only individuals are disinclined toward CAM use.

Conclusions: After controlling for established predictors including educational attainment, personality, social support, and access to conventional medicine, the present study demonstrates that spirituality and religiousness are associated, in unique ways, with CAM use. Additional research on this topic is clearly warranted.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Spirituality*
  • United States