Nearly 40 percent of adults and 12 percent of children in the United States use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to an annual, nationwide government survey published Wednesday.
The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the first time included children aged 17 and under who used non-conventional medical treatment including herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic and acupuncture.
The survey questioned more than 23,000 adults and 9,400 parents on behalf a child about their health and the therapeutic treatment they were receiving.
The questionnaire included 36 types of commonly used CAM therapies in the United States: 10 types of provider-based therapies, such as acupuncture and chiropractic, and 26 other therapies that do not require a provider, such as herbal supplements and meditation.
A comparison of the 2007 CAM survey to the first one conducted in 2002 suggests that overall use of alternative medicine among US adults has remained relatively steady -- 36 percent in 2002 and 38 percent in 2007.
The latest survey, however, found "significant increases" in some types of CAM including deep breathing exercises, meditation, massage therapy and yoga.
Among adults in 2007, 17.7 percent used natural products including fish oil/omega 3/DHA, glucosamine, echinacea, flaxseed oil or pills, and ginseng.
The next most popular therapies included deep breathing exercises (12.7 percent), meditation (9.4 percent), chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (8.6 percent), massage (8.3 percent) and yoga (6.1 percent).
Among the 12 percent of children who resorted to CAM, the most prevalent therapies were natural products -- fish oil/omega 3/DHA and flaxseed oil -- (3.9 percent), chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (2.8 percent) deep breathing exercises (2.2 percent) and yoga (2.1 percent).
Also consistent with the 2002 data, the 2007 survey showed CAM use among adults was greater among women than men (42.8 to 33.5 percent), among older people than younger (30-39 years: 39.6 percent, 40-49 years: 40.1 percent, 50-59 years: 44.1 percent), and among people with higher levels of education (55.4 percent).
"These statistics confirm that CAM practices are a frequently used component of Americans' health care regimens, and reinforce the need for rigorous research to study the safety and effectiveness of these therapies," said Josephine Briggs, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which developed the survey.
"The data also point out the need for patients and health care providers to openly discuss CAM use to ensure safe and coordinated care," Briggs said.