The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been examined previously for midlife women only in regional studies. The purpose of this study was to obtain national estimates of CAM use.
Data were obtained from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, which included a CAM supplementary questionnaire. The response rate was 74%. The analysis included 3,621 female respondents between 45 and 57 years of age who had answered all of the relevant questions. SUDAAN software was used to account for the complex sampling design.
Forty-five percent of women 45 to 57 years of age had used some form of CAM within the last 12 months. Approximately 25% used biologics (e.g., herbs) or mind-body (e.g., biofeedback) modalities, whereas only 15% used body work (massage and chiropractic medicine). Use did not vary by age, but white race, higher education, and residence in the West were associated with increased use. Only 45% of CAM users mentioned its use to a medical provider. The most cited reason for using CAM involved treatment of pain, with only 3% mentioning menopause. However, the odds for use of CAM were almost twice as high for women with menopausal symptoms in the past year compared with women with no symptoms (odds ratio: 1.9, 95% CI: 1.6-2.2).
CAM use among midlife U.S. women is high, although CAM is not used specifically for menopausal concerns. These data will be useful as a benchmark of the use of CAM as use of conventional menopause therapies are influenced by the Women's Health Initiative results.
In 2002, an investigation of a nationally representative sample found that 45% of women 45-57 years of age used CAM in the past 12 months. Only 3% mentioned using CAM specifically to treat menopause or menopausal symptoms.