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J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Sep;20(9):718-26. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0041. Epub 2014 Jul 3.

Determining the attitudes and use of complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine among undergraduates.

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1 Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, affiliated with School of Medicine, University of California , Irvine, Costa Mesa, CA.



To (1) determine the attitudes, perceptions, and use of complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine among undergraduate students; (2) assess whether these students would benefit from more academic exposure to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and promotion of integrative medicine (IM); and (3) gauge the need and desire of undergraduates, particularly pre-health learners, to take courses about CAM/IM.


This cross-sectional electronic survey study was conducted on the campus of the University of California (UC) Irvine. Selection criteria included being at least 18 years of age and a current undergraduate at UC Irvine. All survey responses were collected between November 20, 2010, and June 1, 2011. The data were analyzed by using Stata software, version 11-SE (Stata Corp., College Station, TX).


Completed surveys were received from 2839 participants (mean age of respondents, 20.2 years). Thirty-five percent had used CAM within the past 12 months, and 92.8% believed CAM to be at least somewhat effective; however, only 31% had prior education on CAM. After adjustment for variables, familiarity and belief in effectiveness were both highly linked to the use of CAM, with ascending odds ratios (ORs; 95% confidence interval [CI]) of 3.9 (3.1-4.9), 8.1 (5.7-11.5), 13.4 (6.0-30.2), 2.1 (1.3-3.4), 4.9 (3.0-7.8), and 12.7 (6.9-23.4) among increasing categories (all p<0.01). Sex (OR, 1.26 [95% CI, 1.01-1.56]; p<0.05), Asian ethnicity (1.46 [1.14-1.88]; p<0.01), and prior education (1.26 [1.01-1.57]; p<0.05) were also significantly correlated to the use of CAM after adjustment. Most respondents indicated that they were likely to take a CAM college course if it fulfilled a graduation requirement (63.6%) or was offered within their major (56.4%).


Overall, this large-scale study supports the ideas that education plays a pivotal factor in the decision to use CAM and that there is a large demand for additional CAM knowledge among college students.

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