Prevalence and correlates of complementary and alternative medicine services use in low-income African Americans and whites: a report from the Southern Community Cohort Study

J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Sep;18(9):844-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0363. Epub 2012 Aug 6.


Objectives: This study aimed to examine the prevalence, trends, and correlates of practitioner-based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services use according to race in a socioeconomically disadvantaged population.

Design: Included in this cross-sectional analysis were 50,176 African Americans (AAs) and 19,038 whites enrolled into the Southern Community Cohort Study from March 2002 through September 2009. Logistic regression models were used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of CAM services use associated with participant characteristics.

Outcome measures: Outcomes include the prevalence of and trends in use of CAM services during 2002-2009 and correlates of use by race.

Results: CAM services use during 2002-2009 was greater among whites (11.7%) than among AAs (8.5%), but no significant temporal trends within the 8-year period were observed. The significant associations were observed for CAM services use with higher educational attainment (OR 1.78, 95% CI: 1.61-1.96 for college versus less than high school), household income (OR 1.61, 95% CI: 1.44-1.81 for ≥$50,000 versus <$15,000), and having a history of a chronic disease (OR 1.34, 95% CI: 1.21-1.47) among both AAs and whites. Significant differences in findings between AAs and whites were seen for age (with a sharp decline in use with older age among AAs but not whites), sex (with the excess of female users more striking among whites), employment (with the unemployed among AAs but not whites more likely to be users), alcohol consumption (with white but not AA drinkers more likely to report CAM services use), and cigarette smoking status (with negative association of use with current smokers more striking among whites).

Conclusions: CAM services use is associated with sociodemographic and health-related factors, and racial differences in such use exist. The descriptive findings of this study help supplement the limited information on CAM use among low-income and minority populations in the United States.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Black or African American*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Complementary Therapies / trends
  • Educational Status
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Poverty*
  • Smoking
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • White People*