The association between self-reported mental health symptomology and complementary and alternative medicine use among U.S. women




Pettigrew, Susan Caroline

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Within the United States, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has increased over the past three decades. Review of CAM literature research suggests that people with mental health disorders are heavily represented among those using CAM. The purpose of this retrospective, cross-sectional study, secondary analysis of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) was to explore the relationship between CAM use and mental health symptomology of anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression in women.

The results of this study provide valuable insight into trends in the use of CAM, including the types of CAM being utilized, as well as the demographic characteristics of women using CAM for mental health conditions. Consistent determinants of CAM use within this sample were education level, geographic region of residence in the US, and ethnicity. CAM use was higher among middle-aged women who had bachelor or graduate degrees (n=337; 88.9%) than with women who had less than a high school diploma (n=245; 43.8%). Use was more common among women living in the West (n-420; 78.4%) than elsewhere in the US. And use was more common among Caucasian women (n=1129; 74.7%) than non-Caucasian women (n=511, 57.2%). The most frequently used types of CAM for women with any of the target disorders included the following: herbal supplements (n=831; 33.7%), chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation therapy (n=792; 32.1%), deep breathing exercises (n=709; 28.7%), and massage (n=580; 23.5%).

With the high prevalence of CAM use in the US, there is an increasing need for patients and health providers to openly discuss CAM use to ensure safe and coordinated care. Health educators can encourage and facilitate communication between patients and their health care providers. The data from this study reinforce the increasing importance of health educators being prepared to discuss with their patients not only the conventional health care options, but CAM therapies as health care options.



Health and environmental science, Education, Anxiety, Bipolar disorders, Complementary and alternative medicine, Depression, Mental health disorders, Women