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Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 May-Jun;9(3):50-7.

Use of complementary and alternative medicine among the ethnic elderly.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of California, Irvine, USA.



We sought to explore whether the elderly are high users of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and to determine which modalities they use. We also sought to describe patterns and positive predictors of CAM use among 3 ethnically diverse groups of community-residing elderly.


A 7-page questionnaire was developed and translated into Spanish and Vietnamese.


A population of 525 community-residing elderly completed personal interviews.


Two hundred and fifty-one respondents (47.8%) reported using CAM over the past year. Dietary supplements (47.4%), chiropractic (16.3%), home remedies (15.9%), acupuncture (15.1%), and Oriental medicine (12.8%), were the most frequently cited therapies. The majority of CAM users (62.4%) did not inform their physicians that they were using it, but 58% consulted their physician for the same problem for which they used CAM. Family and friends were most relied upon for making the choice of therapy. Among the 3 ethnic groups studied, Asians were higher users of acupuncture (28%) and Oriental medicine (31%), Hispanics were higher users of dietary supplements (56%), home remedies (25%), and curanderos (8%), while white non-Hispanics were higher users of chiropractic (42%), massage (20%), vitamins (20%), diet (17%), and psychospiritual (15%) modalities. Pain was a higher indicator of CAM use among Asians, gastrointestinal problems and diabetes among Hispanics, and stress/fatigue and cardiovascular problems among white non-Hispanics.


Findings indicated a high use of CAM among the elderly and emphasize the likelihood that elderly immigrants use those therapies with which they are familiar. Modalities and conditions varied with the ethnicity of respondents.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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