More than 37 percent of U.S. households regularly turn to alternative treatments for everything from headaches to diabetes, according to a survey conducted by Thomson Medstat.
Thomson Medstat's 2006 consumer healthcare survey asked 23,000 adults about their use of alternative medicine and found that:
-- 37.2 percent of U.S. households use some form of alternative medicine. The most common reason was to improve general wellness.
-- Alternative medicine use is most prevalent among those with annual incomes exceeding $100,000 and those with post-graduate college degrees.
-- Nearly two-thirds of respondents said their physicians were aware of their use of alternative medicine.
-- 41.9 percent said at least some of the costs of their alternative treatments were covered by insurance.
-- Herbal supplements and massage/chiropractic care were the most commonly used alternative care, followed by mind/body practices, energy therapies and naturopathy.
Alternative medicines are broadly defined as therapeutic or preventive healthcare practices such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine.
Despite the potential for dangerous interactions between alternative and prescription medicines, the study found that affluent, highly educated Americans are driving the growth of the alternative market. Nearly half (49.9 percent) of households earning more than $100,000 per year sought alternative treatments in the past 12 months. Likewise, 49.6 percent of those with post- graduate degrees used alternative medicine. At the lower end of the income/education scale, utilization dropped to 30 percent in households earning $15,000-$24,999 per year and to 18.1 percent among those without a high school diploma.
"Alternative medicine use has become so widespread that it is now critical for traditional, Western physicians to factor a whole new set of potential interactions into treatment decisions," said Dr. David Schutt, associate medical director at Thomson Medstat. "Knowing the statistics behind alternative medicine use is a good start, but further study of this area is necessary."
The study suggests that doctors are increasingly making it a habit to ask patients about their alternative medicine use and history. In total, 64.1 percent of respondents said their physicians were aware of their use of alternative medicine.
For more detailed report on the survey findings, visit http://www.medstat.com/insights_and_resources/research_briefs_detail.aspx?i d=7 00. (Due to the length of the URL, you may need to copy and paste this address into your browser.)