Older Americans Turn to CAM

News Note

By Lara Evans Bracciante

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2005.

More than 60 percent of Americans over age 50 are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to a recent study conducted at Ohio State University. This appears to be a larger percentage than within the general population.

Using data from 848 subjects interviewed for the University of Michigan’s 2000 Health and Retirement Survey, the study specifically asked about use of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, breathing exercises, herbal medicine, and meditation. Chiropractic was the most utilized therapy with 43 percent of respondents reporting its use. The least utilized was acupuncture. The study also revealed that certain demographic populations were more likely to use alternative medicine, including African-Americans, widows, and religious individuals. In addition, subjects who were dissatisfied with the level of traditional care they were receiving, as well as those who reported problems conducting daily activities, such as carrying groceries, eating, and bathing, were also more likely to turn to alternative remedies.

Researchers speculate that because older people are more likely to suffer from chronic illness and pain that is difficult to treat with conventional medicine, they are more apt to seek alternatives.