According to a recent analysis of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, U.S. adults who used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for general health and well-being reported significantly better health status than those adults who used CAM to treat an illness. The NCCIH-funded analysis, published in Health Services Research, also found that these two groups of CAM users had differing health behaviors and patterns.
The researchers examined demographics, health behaviors, and use of conventional health services (general practitioner, medical specialist, or mental health practitioner) among three different groups of CAM users—those who used CAM to treat an illness, for health promotion, or for both purposes. The researchers found that in general, people who used CAM were more likely to have used conventional health services in the previous 12 months than people who did not use CAM. However, people who used CAM specifically for health promotion reported lower rates of use of conventional health services than people who used CAM to treat an illness. In addition, people who used CAM for health promotion were found to have healthier behaviors overall, including higher rates of physical activity and lower rates of obesity, than people who used CAM for treatment.
The researchers concluded that the differences among people who use CAM should be taken into account when pursuing future analyses. Further research is needed to investigate the long-term effects of CAM use on public health.
- Davis MA, West AN, Weeks WB, et al. Health behaviors and utilization among users of complementary and alternative medicine for treatment versus health promotion. Health Services Research. 2011; 46(5):1402–1416.