Adolescent use of complementary therapies

Carie A. Braun, Linda H. Bearinger, Linda L. Halcón, Sandra L. Pettingell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Purpose: Interest in alternative/complementary therapies (A/CTs) is on the rise, yet little is known about adolescents' use of A/CTs. The study purpose was to examine A/CT utilization patterns among a clinic-based sample of adolescents. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 401 adolescents, aged 12-18 years, was conducted in one Midwest urban adolescent ambulatory clinic in 2002. Results: Overall, 68.1% of the adolescents reported using one or more A/CT; most commonly, herbal medicines (27.2%), massage therapy (26.7%), and megavitamins (21.7%). Use by friends and family was the primary influence for adolescent A/CT use; lack of familiarity was the greatest reason for nonuse (53.9%). Alleviation of physical pain (66.3%) was the most common desired health outcome. Few adolescents (13.8%) disclosed A/CT use to their health care providers. Insurance coverage was provided for 10.2% of the therapies and out-of-pocket costs averaged $67/month. Age, race/ethnicity, having a health condition, taking medications, health responsibility, and work status were associated with overall A/CT use in bivariate analyses. Of these, only associations between A/CT use and race/ethnicity and health responsibility remained statistically significant after adjusting for the other variables. Conclusions: Use of A/CTs was common among these adolescents, yet very few disclosed their use to health care providers. Providers must ask about A/CT use to gain a more complete understanding of health practices among adolescents in clinical settings. Future research is needed to better understand representative patterns of A/CT use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76.e1-76.e9
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by a predoctoral training grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute for Nursing Research (Grant #5F31-NR07549-03) and a nursing training grant, T80MC00021 (Center for Adolescent Nursing, Director: Bearinger) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act) Human Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.


  • Adolescent health
  • Alternative medicine
  • Complementary therapies


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