Those Who Earn Less and Have Lower Education Levels Are Less Likely To Use Alternative Medicine

If you’re an Underground Health Reporter reader, then chances are you’re savvy about alternative health and wellness practices and probably take advantage of quite a few. But what about the people who aren’t participating in complementary health therapies like yoga and acupuncture. Why aren’t they safeguarding their health with natural botanicals and treating their back pain with chiropractic medicine?

A new study out of San Francisco State University sheds some light on why some people don’t use alternative medicine. They discovered that it mainly comes down to lack of knowledge. People with lower education levels and lower income are less likely to know about popular alternative health practices such as yoga, acupuncture, natural products, and chiropractic medicine.

Treatment by acupuncture. The doctor uses needles for treatment of the patient.Knowledge Is Key

Researchers culled data from the 2007 National Health Survey, analyzing the responses of 13,000 people who said they had never used alternative medicine. Results showed that people who went to college were 58% less likely to cite “lack of knowledge” as a reason why they didn’t use complementary health treatments. People in higher income brackets were 37% less likely to attribute their non-use of alternative medicine to lack of knowledge.

San Francisco State University’s Professor of Health Education Adam Burke explains, “The implication of this study is that the lack of access to health knowledge is a root of health inequity. If you are poor, you have less access to health information for a variety of reasons.”

Physical activity levels were also associated with lack of knowledge. People who exercised the least were also less likely to know about alternative health therapies.

The correlation between lower income and education levels and non-use of complementary alternative medicine even showed up in survey respondents with lower back pain. Back pain is one of the most common health issues that alternative medicine treats. Burke and his team hypothesized that individuals with back pain, regardless of income level or education, would be more likely to know about alternative health solutions even if they didn’t use them. After all, wouldn’t their doctors recommend these practices? Study results showed the contrary.

The study suggests that more doctors need to follow best-practice guidelines and offer patients alternative health solutions such as yoga and acupuncture in addition to Western treatments.

“Often, the solution for chronic pain is addictive prescription medications, which are problematic in all communities, especially in lower-income communities,” Burke said. “Complementary methods have the potential to mitigate such addiction problems and may help address the root problem rather than just managing the symptoms, which is a real benefit.”