A Comparative Study of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Heterosexually and Lesbian Identified Women: Data from the ESTHER Project (Pittsburgh, PA, 2003-2006)

Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, 230 McKee Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.
Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) (Impact Factor: 1.59). 11/2010; 16(11):1161-70. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0444
Source: PubMed


The prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among women in the United States is high. Little is known about how CAM use may differ based on sexual orientation. Study aims were to measure the prevalence of CAM use in a community sample of women, explore differences in CAM use patterns by sexual orientation, and identify correlates of CAM use.
Analyses were based on women (Total N = 879; n = 479 lesbians) enrolled in the Epidemiologic STudy of HEalth Risk in Women (ESTHER) Project, a cross-sectional heart-disease risk-factor study.
Data were collected through convenience sampling of adult females in Pittsburgh, PA (2003-2006).
Main outcome measures included lifetime and past 12-month CAM use, and types of CAM modalities used in the past 12 months.
The prevalence of having ever used CAM was 49.8%, with 42% having reported CAM use within the past 12 months. Lesbians had greater odds of having ever used CAM (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.68 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.23, 2.28]) and of having used CAM in the past 12 months (AOR = 1.44 [CI: 1.06, 1.97]) than heterosexuals. In multivariate analyses, correlates of lifetime and past 12-month CAM use included being lesbian, white, higher educated, and a large-city resident; experiencing perceived discrimination in a health care setting; and having a greater spirituality rating and a history of a diagnosed mental health disorder. Past 12-month CAM use was also associated with having a provider of usual health care. Among women who used CAM within the past 12 months, heterosexuals had significantly higher yoga participation rates than lesbians.
Sexual orientation is important in understanding lifetime and past 12-month CAM use. Because of the high prevalence of CAM use found in this study, medical practitioners should inquire about the CAM practices of female patients, particularly lesbians.

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