U.S. study shows geographic trends in use of complementary and alternative medicine
By Dennis Thompson
WEDNESDAY, April 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Folks on the West Coast are faithful followers of yoga and meditation. Midwesterners turn to chiropractors or osteopathic doctors for their aches and pains.
And nearly one in every five Americans uses herbal supplements like ginseng, Echinacea, ginkgo biloba and St. John's Wort.
Those are just some of the findings of a new federal government report on complementary and alternative medicine trends in the United States.
The report, derived from national health survey data collected in 2012, shows clear regional trends in the way Americans choose to use complementary medicine, said report co-author Tainya Clarke.
"It is important to continue to monitor the use of these complementary health approaches among the U.S. population, and this is the most recent national data out there," said Clarke, a service fellow with the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"By highlighting regional differences, we can stimulate further research and help people make informed decisions," she said.
After looking at data on almost 35,000 people across the country, the researchers found that:
- Yoga with deep breathing or meditation is about 40 percent more common in the Pacific and Mountain states than in the country overall.
- Use of chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation is nearly twice as high in the "West North Central region" -- from the Dakotas and Minnesota down to Kansas and Missouri -- than the rest of the United States.
- People in the Pacific, Mountain and West North Central states are more likely to use massage therapy, compared with the rest of the country.
In general, people living in southern and Mid-Atlantic states have less use for complementary or alternative medicine, the researchers found.
There was one notable exception, however -- in all parts of the country, large numbers of people appear to be using herbal dietary supplements.
Use of such supplements ranges from a high of 28.7 percent of Mountain state residents to a low of 13.1 percent in the South Atlantic states.
Herbal supplements constitute the most popular complementary health trend in the United States, according to the report, published April 16 as a NCHS Data Brief. About 18 percent of Americans use herbal supplements, more than double that of the next most popular complementary medicines -- chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation (8.5 percent) and yoga (8.4 percent).
The findings are important and will help practitioners of alternative medicine better focus their efforts, said Dr. Molly Roberts, president of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA).
"It is good to see the CDC putting its attention to where Americans are seeking care in today's marketplace," Roberts said. "At the AHMA, we feel that listening to our patients is the best way to help them find the healing they need. We applaud this study and are working to create greater dialogue around how we can help transform health care."
While the new study didn't look into why these regional differences exist, Clarke said it's likely the result of several factors such as education, culture and the availability of complementary health services.
For example, people in the Pacific and Mountain states are more likely to use yoga and massage therapy, which both focus on wellness and disease prevention, she said.
"You have a lot of yoga in California and those regions, and you see less evidence of disease treatments like chiropractic care," Clarke said. On the other hand, people in the Midwest who partake less in wellness practices may be more apt to get injured and need chiropractic manipulation, she added.
The dearth of complementary and alternative medicine use in the South could come down to the fact that such services aren't offered as frequently there, Clarke added.
"You don't find as many yoga studios in more rural areas," she said. "You're not going to have a lot of other people using some of these complementary health approaches."
SOURCES: Tainya Clarke, Ph.D, M.P.H., research fellow, U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Molly Roberts, M.D., M.S., president, American Holistic Medical Association; April 2014, NCHS Data Brief: Regional Variation in Use of Complementary Health Approaches by U.S. Adults
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Published: April 2014