Most Older Adults Use Alternative Healthcare

A Reuters Health News release on April 11, 2005 reported on a new study that shows that more than 70 percent of adults aged 50 or older use some type of non medical care that the report referred to as “alternative therapy”. The author of the study, Dr. Gong-Soog Hong, who is based at Ohio State University in Columbus, noted that she was surprised to see so many older adults turning to alternative treatments, “The percentage of older adults who used alternative medicine was higher than I expected.”

Dr. Hong and her team used data from the 2000 Health and Retirement Survey, conducted by the University of Michigan and funded mainly by the National Institute on Aging. The article noted that many of the people who were turning to non-medical forms of care were in poor health and did not get help from medical care. When asked why so many were turning to alternative care, Dr. Hong responded, “So when conventional medicine cannot give you an answer, sometimes you turn to alternatives.”

The study involved interviews of 848 people aged 50 and above about their use of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, breathing exercises, herbal medicine and meditation. The results showed that 71% percent of respondents said they had tried at least one of the six types of alternative therapy. The most popular remedy was chiropractic care, used by 43 percent of older adults. The research showed that the least used type of care on the list was acupuncture. Dr. Hong theorized that this might well be because few insurance companies cover it.

Respondents to the survey said they were more likely to use one of the forms of care if their health was poor and their daily activity was affected. Of those who described their health as poor, 65 percent said they considered the alternative care as preventive or curative. This represents a higher percentage than among the general population. Additionally, about 63 percent of respondents said that one of the reasons for their choice was that they were not satisfied with their medical health care.