Spending on Alt Medicine Reaches New High in U.S.

More than $30 billion paid out-of-pocket for acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic care, supplements
More than $30 billion paid out-of-pocket for acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic care, supplements

HealthDay News — Americans spent more than $30 billion out of pocket in 2012 on chiropractors and other complementary health practitioners, as well as supplements and other forms of alternative medicine, according to research published online June 22 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Statistics Reports.

Expenditures in 2012 included the following: $14.7 billion out-of-pocket on visits to complementary practitioners such as chiropractors, yoga instructors, acupuncturists, or massage therapists – nearly 30% of what people spent on traditional medical services; $12.8 billion on natural product supplements, which was about one-quarter of what people spent on prescription drugs; and $2.7 billion on books, CDs, videos, and other self-help materials related to complementary health.

According to the report, $28.3 billion was spent on adults, compared with just $1.9 billion for children. Study coauthor Richard Nahin, PhD, MPH, lead epidemiologist at the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and his colleagues found that families making less than $25,000 a year spent, on average, $314 out-of-pocket on visits to complementary health practitioners in 2012, and an average $389 on natural supplements. Families earning incomes of $100,000 or more a year spent an average of $518 on complementary practitioners and an average of $377 on supplements.

Use of yoga has increased dramatically, while chiropractic care and massage therapy has tended to remain level. Use of natural supplements decreased slightly. Nahin told HealthDay that sales of fish oil supplements have increased four-fold since 2002 but sales of ginkgo biloba and echinacea decreased. Overall, spending on complementary medicine amounted to 9.2% of out-of-pocket health care expenditures and 1.1% of total health care expenditures in the United States, the researchers found.

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