There is evidence of asthma patients using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This article reports the findings of the first ever longitudinal study of CAM use among women with asthma from a large nationally representative sample.
A longitudinal analysis of questionnaires completed in 1996, 2000, 2003, and 2006 as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. The cohort began with 14,701 randomly selected young women (aged 18-22 years). CAM use was defined as a consultation with a range of complementary practitioners in the 12 months prior to each survey. Statistical analyses included the use of generalized estimating equations.
Over the 10-year period, approximately 26% of the women were asthmatic. Asthmatic women were significantly more likely to use CAM (19%, 22%, and 36% for surveys 2-4, respectively) than non-asthmatic women (15%, 20%, and 32% for surveys 2-4, respectively). CAM use increased as time since asthma diagnosis increased. However, only the increase in consultations with a naturopath/herbalist remains statistically significant when the CAM modalities are considered individually alongside asthma status. The longitudinal model suggests that women with asthma are 1.13 (95% CI: 1.05-1.21) times more likely to consult with a CAM practitioner (p< .001). The study also shows that CAM users have a higher dissatisfaction with conventional healthcare services and consultations when compared to CAM non-users.
These findings suggest that women with asthma may turn to CAM after conventional care fails to adequately address their healthcare needs.