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Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What People Aged 50 and Older Discuss With Their Health Care Providers




In the AARP/NCCAM survey, just over half (53 percent) of people 50 and older reported using CAM at some point in their lives, and nearly as many (47 percent) reported using it in the past 12 months. Herbal products or dietary supplements were the type of CAM most commonly used, with just over a third (37 percent) of respondents reporting their use, followed by massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, and other bodywork, used by around a fifth (22 percent) of respondents (Figure 1).

Some demographic groups were more likely to use CAM than others:

  • Women were more likely than men to report using any form of CAM in the past 12 months (51 vs. 43 percent) as well as two particular types: herbal products or dietary supplements (41 vs. 33 percent) and massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, or other bodywork (27 vs. 16 percent).
  • In most cases, the use of CAM increased with education. As Figure 2 illustrates, those who had attended or graduated from college were significantly more likely than those who had a high school education or less to use every form of CAM with one exception: Those who graduated from college were not significantly more likely than those with a high school education or less to use naturopathy, acupuncture, or homeopathy.
  • Though relatively few respondents used mind/body practices or alternative medical systems, about twice as many in the younger age group did so.
    • Eleven percent of people aged 50-64 reported using mind/body practices including hypnosis and meditation, compared with 5 percent of those 65 and older.
    • About 7 percent of those aged 50-64 reported using naturopathy, acupuncture, or homeopathy, compared with 3 percent of those aged 65 and older.


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This page last modified September 24, 2017