National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Downloadable Graphics on What People Aged 50 and Older Discuss With Their Health Care Providers

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Citation: AARP, NCCAM. Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What People Aged 50 and Older Discuss With Their Health Care Providers. Consumer Survey Report; April 13, 2010.

Credit: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH, DHHS

Figure 1 shows the types of complementary and alternative medicine practices and products survey respondents used in the past 12 months: 37 percent used herbal products or dietary supplements. 22 percent used massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, or other bodywork. 9 percent used mind/body practices. 5 percent used naturopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy. 1 percent used other types of CAM products and practices.

Figure 1. Type of CAM Used in the Past 12 Months

Figure 1 shows the types of complementary and alternative medicine practices and products survey respondents used in the past 12 months:

  • 37 percent used herbal products or dietary supplements.
  • 22 percent used massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, or other bodywork.
  • 9 percent used mind/body practices.
  • 5 percent used naturopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy.
  • 1 percent used other types of CAM products and practices.
Figure 2. Education Level and Type of CAM Used in the Past 12 Months Figure 2 shows the relationship between the type of complementary and alternative medicine practices and products used and the education level of survey respondents. In most cases the use of CAM increased with education. 30 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using herbal products or dietary supplements, whereas 47 percent of those with some college education and 44 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of herbs and supplements. 16 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, or other bodywork, whereas 29 percent of those with some college education and 28 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of these practices. 4 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using mind/body practices, whereas 14 percent of those with some college education and 14 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of mind/body practices. 3 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using naturopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy, whereas 11 percent of those with some college education and 6 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of naturopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy.

Figure 2. Education Level and Type of CAM Used in the Past 12 Months

Figure 2 shows the relationship between the type of complementary and alternative medicine practices and products used and the education level of survey respondents. In most cases the use of CAM increased with education.

30 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using herbal products or dietary supplements, whereas 47 percent of those with some college education and 44 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of herbs and supplements. 16 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, or other bodywork, whereas 29 percent of those with some college education and 28 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of these practices.

4 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using mind/body practices, whereas 14 percent of those with some college education and 14 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of mind/body practices.

3 percent of those who have a high school education or less reported using naturopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy, whereas 11 percent of those with some college education and 6 percent of those who graduated from college reported use of naturopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy.

Figure 3. CAM Use in the Past 12 Months Among U.S. Adults, by Age Category Figure 3 shows National Health Interview Survey complementary and alternative medicine use statistics among U.S. adults. The data is broken down by age range. CAM use was: 36.3 percent among those aged 18 to 29 years 39.6 percent among those aged 30 to 39 years 40.1 percent among those aged 40 to 49 years 44.1 percent among those aged 50 to 59 years 41 percent among those aged 60 to 69 years 32.1 percent among those aged 70 to 84 years 24.2 percent among those aged 85 years and older.

Figure 3. CAM Use in the Past 12 Months Among U.S. Adults, by Age Category

Figure 3 shows National Health Interview Survey complementary and alternative medicine use statistics among U.S. adults. The data is broken down by age range. CAM use was:

  • 36.3 percent among those aged 18 to 29 years
  • 39.6 percent among those aged 30 to 39 years
  • 40.1 percent among those aged 40 to 49 years
  • 44.1 percent among those aged 50 to 59 years
  • 41 percent among those aged 60 to 69 years
  • 32.1 percent among those aged 70 to 84 years
  • 24.2 percent among those aged 85 years and older.
Figure 4. Reasons for CAM Use Figure 4 shows that when those who used complementary and alternative medicine were asked why they used these approaches, the most common reasons were: to prevent illness or for overall wellness, 77 percent; to reduce pain or treat painful conditions, 73 percent; to treat a specific health condition, 59 percent; or to supplement conventional medicine, 53 percent.

Figure 4. Reasons for CAM Use

Figure 4 shows that when those who used complementary and alternative medicine were asked why they used these approaches, the most common reasons were: to prevent illness or for overall wellness, 77 percent; to reduce pain or treat painful conditions, 73 percent; to treat a specific health condition, 59 percent; or to supplement conventional medicine, 53 percent.

Figure 5. Respondents Who Discussed CAM With Health Care Provider Figure 5 is a pie chart showing that among all survey participants two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) reported that they had not discussed CAM with any health care provider versus a third (33 percent) of respondents who reported that they had discussed CAM with a health care provider.

Figure 5. Respondents Who Discussed CAM With Health Care Provider

Figure 5 is a pie chart showing that among all survey participants two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) reported that they had not discussed CAM with any health care provider versus a third (33 percent) of respondents who reported that they had discussed CAM with a health care provider.

Figure 6. Types of Health Care Providers CAM Is Discussed With As Figure 6 illustrates, people aged 50 and older were most likely to have discussed CAM with their physician (28 percent). Less than half as many discussed it with other types of health care providers, such as nurse or nurse practitioner, 12 percent; physician assistant, 12 percent; pharmacist, 9 percent; chiropractor, 2 percent; physical therapist, 1 percent; any other type, 2 percent.

Figure 6. Types of Health Care Providers CAM Is Discussed With

As Figure 6 illustrates, people aged 50 and older were most likely to have discussed CAM with their physician (28 percent). Less than half as many discussed it with other types of health care providers, such as nurse or nurse practitioner, 12 percent; physician assistant, 12 percent; pharmacist, 9 percent; chiropractor, 2 percent; physical therapist, 1 percent; any other type, 2 percent.

Figure 7. Who Brought Up CAM Figure 7 shows statistics on who brought up CAM among those respondents who have discussed CAM with a health care provider. It compares the results from a 2006 survey to the 2010 survey. In 2006, 56 percent of respondents, and in 2010, 55 percent of respondents, reported that they raised the topic of CAM. In 2006 and 2010, 26 percent of respondents reported that a health care provider raised the topic. In 2006, 10 percent, and in 2010, 14 percent reported that a relative or friend raised the topic of CAM. In 2010 alone, 1 percent stated that someone else raised the topic. Finally, 8 percent of respondents in 2006 and 4 percent in 2010 either did not know or refused to respond.

Figure 7. Who Brought Up CAM

Figure 7 shows statistics on who brought up CAM among those respondents who have discussed CAM with a health care provider. It compares the results from a 2006 survey to the 2010 survey. In 2006, 56 percent of respondents, and in 2010, 55 percent of respondents, reported that they raised the topic of CAM. In 2006 and 2010, 26 percent of respondents reported that a health care provider raised the topic. In 2006, 10 percent, and in 2010, 14 percent reported that a relative or friend raised the topic of CAM. In 2010 alone, 1 percent stated that someone else raised the topic. Finally, 8 percent of respondents in 2006 and 4 percent in 2010 either did not know or refused to respond.

Figure 8. Topics Discussed by Health Care Provider As shown in Figure 8, respondents said their health care providers most often discussed: the potential of interactions between CAM and other medications or treatments, 44 percent; advice on whether to pursue CAM treatments, 41 percent; the effectiveness of CAM therapies, 41 percent; what type of CAM to use, 40 percent; the safety of CAM therapies, 38 percent; where to get more information, 28 percent; referrals to CAM practitioners, 21 percent.

Figure 8. Topics Discussed by Health Care Provider

As shown in Figure 8, respondents said their health care providers most often discussed: the potential of interactions between CAM and other medications or treatments, 44 percent; advice on whether to pursue CAM treatments, 41 percent; the effectiveness of CAM therapies, 41 percent; what type of CAM to use, 40 percent; the safety of CAM therapies, 38 percent; where to get more information, 28 percent; referrals to CAM practitioners, 21 percent.

Figure 9. Reasons CAM Was Not Discussed With Health Care Provider Figure 9 shows the reasons why respondents do not discuss CAM with their health care providers and compares data from the 2006 survey with the 2010 survey. The main reasons were: Health care provider never asked, reported by 42 percent of respondents in 2006 and 2010 Did not know they should bring it up, reported by 30 percent of respondents in 2006 and 2010 Not enough time during office visit, reported by 19 percent of respondents in 2006 and 17 percent in 2010 Don't think health care provider knows about the topic, reported by 17 percent of respondents in 2006 and 16 percent of respondents in 2010 Health care provider would have been dismissive/told them not to do it, reported by 12 percent of respondents in 2006 and 2010 Weren't comfortable discussing it with a health care provider, reported by 11 percent of respondents only in 2010 No reason to do so, reported by 4 percent of respondents only in 2010 Don't believe in CAM, reported by 3 percent of respondents only in 2010.

Figure 9. Reasons CAM Was Not Discussed With Health Care Provider

Figure 9 shows the reasons why respondents do not discuss CAM with their health care providers and compares data from the 2006 survey with the 2010 survey. The main reasons were:

  • Health care provider never asked, reported by 42 percent of respondents in 2006 and 2010
  • Did not know they should bring it up, reported by 30 percent of respondents in 2006 and 2010
  • Not enough time during office visit, reported by 19 percent of respondents in 2006 and 17 percent in 2010
  • Don't think health care provider knows about the topic, reported by 17 percent of respondents in 2006 and 16 percent of respondents in 2010
  • Health care provider would have been dismissive/told them not to do it, reported by 12 percent of respondents in 2006 and 2010
  • Weren't comfortable discussing it with a health care provider, reported by 11 percent of respondents only in 2010
  • No reason to do so, reported by 4 percent of respondents only in 2010
  • Don't believe in CAM, reported by 3 percent of respondents only in 2010.
Figure 10. Primary Source of CAM Information Figure 10 shows that respondents from the 2006 and 2010 surveys who used CAM got information about it from a variety of sources: family or friends, 22 percent (2006) and 26 percent (2010); Internet, 10 percent (2006) and 14 percent (2010); physician, 12 percent (2006) and 13 percent (2010); publications, 14 percent (2006) and 13 percent (2010); and radio or television, 10 percent (2006) and 7 percent (2010).

Figure 10. Primary Source of CAM Information

Figure 10 shows that respondents from the 2006 and 2010 surveys who used CAM got information about it from a variety of sources: family or friends, 22 percent (2006) and 26 percent (2010); Internet, 10 percent (2006) and 14 percent (2010); physician, 12 percent (2006) and 13 percent (2010); publications, 14 percent (2006) and 13 percent (2010); and radio or television, 10 percent (2006) and 7 percent (2010).

Figure 11. Number of Prescription Medications Currently Taken Figure 11 is a pie chart showing the number of prescription medicines currently taken by survey respondents. 21 percent take no prescription medicines. 15 percent take 1 prescription medicine. 26 percent take 2 to 3 prescription medicines. 18 percent take 4 to 5 prescription medicines. 19 percent take more than 5 prescription medicines. 1 percent refused to respond or did not know.

Figure 11. Number of Prescription Medications Currently Taken

Figure 11 is a pie chart showing the number of prescription medicines currently taken by survey respondents.

  • 21 percent take no prescription medicines.
  • 15 percent take 1 prescription medicine.
  • 26 percent take 2 to 3 prescription medicines.
  • 18 percent take 4 to 5 prescription medicines.
  • 19 percent take more than 5 prescription medicines.
  • 1 percent refused to respond or did not know.
Figure 12. Number of Prescription Medicines Currently Taken by CAM Users Figure 12 is a pie chart showing the number of prescription medicines currently taken by survey respondents who also used CAM in the past 12 months. 22 percent take no prescription medicines. 14 percent take 1 prescription medicine. 25 percent take 2 to 3 prescription medicines. 19 percent take 4 to 5 prescription medicines. 19 percent take more than 5 prescription medicines. 2 percent refused to respond or did not know

Figure 12. Number of Prescription Medicines Currently Taken by CAM Users

Figure 12 is a pie chart showing the number of prescription medicines currently taken by survey respondents who also used CAM in the past 12 months.

  • 22 percent take no prescription medicines.
  • 14 percent take 1 prescription medicine.
  • 25 percent take 2 to 3 prescription medicines.
  • 19 percent take 4 to 5 prescription medicines.
  • 19 percent take more than 5 prescription medicines.
  • 2 percent refused to respond or did not know