University of Illinois at Chicago
10.1089-acm.2009.0444.pdf (189.37 kB)

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

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posted on 2011-05-27, 00:00 authored by Helen A. Smith, Alicia Matthews, Nina Markovic, Ada Youk, Michelle E. Danielson, Evelyn O. Talbott
Objectives: 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. Design/subjects : 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. Settings/location : Data were collected through convenience sampling of adult females in Pittsburgh, PA (2003-2006). Outcome measures: Main outcome measures included lifetime and past 12-month CAM use, and types of CAM modalities used in the past 12 months. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.


This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, R01HL067052 (Deborah Aaron, PhD, PI). The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Aaron, now deceased, for her pivotal role in the ESTHER Project and for her many contributions to lesbian health. Dr. Smith was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) under Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award T32-HS017587.


Publisher Statement

This is a copy of an article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine © 2010 [copyright Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.]; Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine is available online at: DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0444


Mary Ann Liebert


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