CAM: National Survey Results
Volume 1, Number 2
May 2004 the National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS),
released findings from the 2002 edition of the NCHS’s National
Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The survey included detailed
questions about CAM such as its prevalence, the most commonly used
CAM therapies, and the reasons people are using them.
In the United States, 36% of adults are using some form of CAM. When
megavitamin therapy and prayer specifically for health reasons are
included in the definition of CAM, that number rises to 62%.
People of all backgrounds use CAM.
CAM is used more by:
– Women than men.
– People with higher levels of education.
– People who had been hospitalized in the prior year.
– Former smokers than current smokers or those who have never
When the definition of CAM includes prayer, the domain of mind-body
medicine is the most commonly used (53%). When prayer is not
included, biologically based therapies (22%) are more popular than
mind-body medicine (17%). Prayer specifically for health reasons was
the most commonly used CAM therapy. (See chart 2).
Most people who use CAM use it to treat themselves, as only about
12% of the survey respondents sought care from a licensed CAM
Americans are most likely to use
CAM for back, neck, head, or joint aches, or other painful
conditions, as well as for colds, anxiety or depression,
gastrointestinal disorders, or sleep problems. CAM is most often
used to treat or prevent conditions involving chronic or recurring
The survey asked people to
select from five reasons to describe why they used CAM.
health when used with conventional medical treatments: 55%
2. CAM would be interesting to try: 50%
3. Conventional medical treatments would not help: 28%
4. A conventional medical professional suggested trying CAM: 26%
5. Conventional medical treatments are too
The Bottom Line
When prayer is included, the majority of consumers use some form
of CAM within their own health management practices. More than half
of respondents combine CAM with conventional medicine. This
reinforces the need for physicians to survey patients about their
use of CAM and discuss the benefits and risks of combining it with
conventional medical treatment.