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More Than One-Third of U.S. Adults Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine, According to a 2002 Government Survey


According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 36 percent of U.S. adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This number rises to 62 percent when prayer is included in the definition of CAM. The NHIS is conducted each year by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2002 survey included a special supplement, developed by NCCIH and NCHS, which asked respondents about their CAM use.

Excluding prayer, the most commonly used form of CAM was natural products (such as herbs and other botanicals). Other popular CAM therapies included deep breathing, meditation, chiropractic care, yoga, massage, and special diets. Echinacea was the most commonly used natural product. CAM was most often used to treat back pain, colds, neck pain, joint pain, and anxiety or depression.

The survey also revealed variations in CAM use by population subgroups. For example, CAM use overall was more common among women, people with higher education, people who had been hospitalized in the past year, and former smokers (compared to current smokers or those who had never smoked).

The authors noted that the information from this survey is a foundation for future studies of CAM as it relates to health and disease among population subgroups.


  • Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin R. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007.
Publication Date: 
May 27, 2004

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This page last modified January 27, 2015