Study Shows Ongoing Rise in Use of Complementary Health Approaches Like Yoga and Meditation

Feb. 1, 2024
Analyzing survey results over a 20-year span, NIH found a steady increase in reports of adults utilizing these methods

Analysis conducted by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reveals a “substantial increase in the overall use of complementary health approaches by American adults from 2002 to 2022.”

In performing the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers analyzed results from three different years of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) – 2002, 2012, and 2022 – to check how the rates of reportage for complementary health approaches changed over time. The seven specific complementary health approaches they looked at were yoga, meditation, massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, naturopathy, and guided imagery/progressive muscle relaxation.

Overall, “the percentage of individuals who reported using at least one of the seven approaches increased from 19.2% in 2002 to 36.7% in 2022.” The approaches that saw the most significant growth over the 20-year span are yoga, meditation, and massage therapy. Use of yoga saw a 10% increase over the span, from 5% in 2002 to 15.8% in 2022. Additionally, meditation became the most used of these approaches by 2022, increasing from 7.5% in 2002 to 17.3% in 2022.

Importantly, the analysis “showed a notable rise in the proportion of U.S. adults using complementary health approaches specifically for pain management.” The percentage of survey participants who reported these approaches specifically with pain management in mind rose from 42.3% in 2002 to 49.2% in 2022.

One notable limitation of the study, according to the authors, is that NHIS response rates have decreased over time. Additionally, they report “possible recall bias, cross-sectional data, and differences in survey wording” as potential limitations.

The authors emphasized “the role of factors such as higher quality research supporting the efficacy of complementary health approaches, the inclusion of these approaches in clinical practice guidelines for pain, and the expanded insurance coverage for approaches such as acupuncture, which has contributed to increased patient access.”

NIH’s website has the press release.