Research Article| Volume 25, ISSUE 12, P1393-1401, December 2017

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Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine among Older Adults: Differences between Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers

Published:August 11, 2017DOI:


      • 23% of older adults in the study used CAM, consistent with results from previous nationally representative samples.
      • Baby boomers were more likely than pre-boomers to report using CAM and among CAM users reported using more CAM modalities.
      • Prayer and spiritual practices was the only type of CAM modality used more by pre-boomers. This is consistent with research to date regarding prayer and aging.
      • Baby boomers' continued use of CAM for mental health care will necessitate a shift in our current models of care to older patients.


      To compare use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) across age cohorts.


      Secondary analysis of data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys.
      Participants: Adults born in 1964 or earlier (N = 11,371). Over half (61.3%) are baby boomers and 53% are female. Seventy-five percent of the sample is white, 10.2% African American, 0.6% black Caribbean, 9.35% Latino, and 4.1% Asian.


      The dependent variable is a dichotomous variable indicating use of any CAM. The main predictor of interest is age cohort categorized as pre-boomers (those born in 1945 or earlier) and baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). Covariates include the use of traditional service providers in the past 12 months and 12-month levels of mood, anxiety, and substance disorder. Disorders were assessed with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Logistic regression was used to test the association between use of CAM and age cohort.


      Baby boomers were more likely than pre-boomers to report using CAM for a mental disorder. Among identified CAM users, a higher proportion of baby boomers reported using most individual CAM modalities. Prayer and spiritual practices was the only CAM used by more pre-boomers.


      Age cohort plays a significant role in shaping individual healthcare behaviors and service use and may influence future trends in the use of CAM for behavioral health. Healthcare providers need to be aware of patient use of CAM and communicate with them about the pros and cons of alternative therapies.

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