Prevalence and factors associated with the use of acupuncture and Chinese medicine: results of a nationally representative survey of 17161 Australian women

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Abstract

Background

Traditional Chinese Medicine has considerable public support in Australia and elsewhere around the world; the literature suggests Chinese medicine (CM) and acupuncture are particularly popular.

Aim

To examine factors associated with CM/acupuncture use among young/middle-aged Australian women.

Methods

This research formed part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH), a population-based cohort study. Data were obtained from the ‘young’ (34–39 years; n=8010) and ‘middle-aged’ (62–67 years; n=9151) ALSWH cohorts, who completed survey 6 (in 2012) and survey 7 (in 2013), respectively. Outcome measures included use of CM and visits to an acupuncturist in the previous 12 months. Predictive factors included demographic characteristics, and measures of health status (diagnosed chronic medical conditions) and health service utilisation. Statistical analyses included bivariate χ2 tests, two proportions Z-tests and backward stepwise multiple logistic regression modelling.

Results

In total, 9.5% and 6.2% of women in the young and middle-aged cohorts, respectively, had consulted an acupuncturist, and 5.7% and 4.0%, respectively, had used CM. Young women with low iron levels and/or endometriosis were more likely to use CM and/or acupuncture. Middle-aged women with low iron levels and/or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) were more likely to use CM, while middle-aged women with arthritis and/or CFS were more likely to use acupuncture.

Conclusions

Women with chronic conditions (including arthritis, low iron, CFS and endometriosis) were associated with higher odds of CM/acupuncture use. There is a need for further research to examine the potential benefits of CM/acupuncture for these chronic illnesses.

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