Use of Mind–Body Medical Therapies

Results of a National Survey


  • Received from the Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies (PMW, DME), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass; and Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Department of Medicine (RBD, RSP), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

 Address correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr. Wolsko: Harvard Osher Institute, 22 A Landmark Center 2-West, 401 Park Drive, Boston, MA 02215 (e-mail:


OBJECT:  Research demonstrating connections between the mind and body has increased interest in the potential of mind–body therapies. Our aim was to examine the use of mind–body therapies, using data available from a national survey.

DESIGN:  Analysis of a large nationally representative dataset that comprehensively evaluated the use of mind–body therapies in the last year.

SETTING:  United States households.

PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS:  A total of 2,055 American adults in 1997–1998.

INTERVENTIONS:  Random national telephone survey.

MEASURES AND MAIN RESULTS:  We obtained a 60% weighted overall response rate among eligible respondents. We found that 18.9% of adults had used at least 1 mind–body therapy in the last year, with 20.5% of these therapies involving visits to a mind–body professional. Meditation, imagery, and yoga were the most commonly used techniques. Factors independently and positively associated with the use of mind–body therapies in the last year were being 40 to 49 years old (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 2.03; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.33 to 3.10), being not married (AOR, 1.78; 95% CI, 1.34 to 2.36), having an educational level of college or greater (AOR, 2.21; 95% CI, 1.57 to 3.09), having used self-prayer for a medical concern (AOR, 2.53; 95% CI, 1.87 to 3.42), and having used another complementary medicine therapy in the last year (AOR, 3.77; 95% CI, 2.74 to 5.20). While used for the full array of medical conditions, they were used infrequently for chronic pain (used by 20% of those with chronic pain) and insomnia (used by 13% of those with insomnia), conditions for which consensus panels have concluded that mind–body therapies are effective. They were also used by less than 20% of those with heart disease, headaches, back or neck pain, and cancer, conditions for which there is strong research support. Mind–body therapies were generally used concomitantly with conventional care: 90% of those using a mind–body therapy in the last year had seen a physician and 80% of mind–body therapies used were discussed with a physician.

CONCLUSIONS:  Although mind–body therapies were commonly used, much opportunity exists to increase use of mind–body therapies for indications with demonstrated efficacy.