Nearly 40% of older adults use at least one integrative medicine strategy to try to relieve symptoms of a physical or mental health problem, or help them relax, a new poll shows.
Whether they chose chiropractic care, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, or some other non-conventional option, 38% found it highly beneficial and another 54% said it was somewhat beneficial.
Women and adults aged 50 to 64 were more likely to use such strategies than men or people aged 65 to 80.
But only 18% of older adults who currently use, used to use integrative health strategies, or are interested in using integrative health strategies have actually talked about it with a healthcare provider.
The new results from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging suggest primary care clinicians should discuss with patients whether they use integrative medicine strategies, which ones, and why.
The new findings also highlight health insurance and cost-related issues related to accessing these strategies, as health plans offer different levels of coverage for integrative medicine approaches.
Of older adults who use or have an interest in integrative medicine strategies, only 15% say their health insurance covers them, 19% say they have no coverage, and two-thirds were unsure about their coverage.
Of those who said insurance didn’t cover these types of services or were unsure about their coverage, 84% said they would likely try integrative medicine strategies if they had health insurance coverage for them. Of those who have stopped using integrative health strategies, more than a quarter cited cost as one of the reasons.
Nearly all respondents to the poll said they believe the mind affects health, with 82% saying it has a big impact and 14% saying it has a small impact.
“As research continues to demonstrate the importance of the mind-body connection in health, and as more rigorous studies are done to determine the effects integrative strategies can have on various conditions, it is important for patients and healthcare providers to open the lines of communication. ” said Rachael Maciasz, a general practitioner of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, who worked with the polling team on the report. Maciasz is clinical director of the VA Whole Health Program at VAAAHS.
“This poll provided insight into the impact of primary care on the modalities patients use to address their health and well-being,” Maciasz added. “Patients whose doctors talked to them about lifestyle factors were more likely to use integrative medicine strategies.
“Educating physicians and encouraging patients to communicate about evidence-based integrative modalities could lead to a larger toolbox for treating and preventing disease and supporting health and wellness.”
The older adults in the poll who are currently using or using integrative strategies said they did so in an effort to treat or prevent pain, insomnia, digestive problems, to relax or manage stress, to avoid acute physical injury. and/or to improve mental health from conditions such as depression or anxiety.
Since primary care providers also help patients cope with such conditions by providing lifestyle advice, prescribing medications, or referring them to specialized care, it is important for them to know what their patients are doing on their own.
“Providers may want to learn about the level of evidence surrounding the use of each approach for different conditions,” said co-director Jeffrey Kullgren, a primary care physician and researcher in Michigan Medicine and VA.
“The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, funds research into such approaches and provides state of the art overviews for many approaches, including massage therapy, meditation and yoga.”
AARP’s Mental Health Center provides resources for older adults to learn about their mental health, news, and information about treatment options.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for all of us to take care of our mental and physical health, and this research shows that nearly all older adults believe they are connected,” said Indira Venkat, AARP senior vice president. Research. “If you’re currently taking integrative treatments or are interested in taking advantage of your mental or physical health, it’s important to talk to your health care provider.”
Source: University of Michigan