Perceived Effectiveness of Acupuncture: Findings From the National Health Interview Survey

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Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics
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Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Medicine and Health Sciences
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LaRiccia, Patrick J
McMurphy, Suzanne
Gallo, Joseph J
Xie, Daiwei

Background: Knowledge of perceived benefit from acupuncture treatment is important to predict who is using acupuncture, to inform physicians of the possible benefits of acupuncture, to determine where rigorous research should be focused, and to help policy makers predict future demand. Objectives: To determine the proportions of survey respondents who reported perceived effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for specific conditions; and to determine the association of specified demographic variables with perceived effectiveness. Design, Setting, and Participants: Publicly available data from 31,044 noninstitutionalized US adults who participated in the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, a cross-sectional in-home computer-assisted interview. Outcome Measures: The proportions of participants reporting “any help” and “great help” for perceived effectiveness across conditions treated and per condition treated; and the association of the subgroups within age, sex, and body mass index (BMI), along with the subgroups Asian race and Chinese ethnicity, with “any help” of acupuncture treatment across conditions treated. Results: Of the 1,274 respondents who reported having consulted an acupuncturist, 329 had used acupuncture in the last 12 months; 276 had used acupuncture to treat a specific condition. A total of 86% of respondents reported being helped by acupuncture, while 45% reported being greatly helped across conditions treated. In an examination of specific conditions treated, the range for “any help” was 98% to 67%, and 98% to 7% in the “great help” outcome. Older age and obesity were negatively associated with perceived effectiveness statistically but not clinically. Asian race and Chinese ethnicity were not statistically significantly associated with perceived effectiveness. Conclusions: Acupuncture is perceived to be effective by most respondents who used it to treat a specific condition. Older age and obesity are negatively associated with perceived effectiveness, but not at a clinically significant level. A larger sample of Asian and Chinese subgroups is needed to determine if there is an association of these subgroups with perceived benefit.

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LaRiccia, P. J., McMurphy, S., Gallo, J. J., Xie, D., & Branas, C. C. (2008). Perceived effectiveness of acupuncture: Findings from the national health interview survey. Medical Acupuncture, 20(4), 239-244. doi:10.1089/acu.2008.0634 This is a copy of an article published in Medical Acupuncture © 2008 [copyright Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.]; Medical Acupuncture is available online at:
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