Traditional Chinese Medicine Use and Health in Community-Dwelling Chinese-American Older Adults in Chicago

Xinqi Dong, Stephanie M. Bergren, E. Shien Chang

Publication Date: 12/01/2015

Chinese people have practiced traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years, but there is a paucity of research regarding TCM use in Chinese older adult immigrants in the United States. This study aims to provide an overall estimate of TCM use for Chinese older adults in the United States and to examine associations between sociodemographic characteristics, health measures, and TCM use. Data were collected through the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago, a community-based participant research study that surveyed 3,158 Chinese older adults aged 60 and older. TCM use was measured using an eight-item scale that examined eight kinds of TCM. Seventy-six percent of participants reported any use of TCM within the past year. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, health status was associated with greater use of acupuncture (odds ratio (OR) = 1.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.06-1.68) and massage therapy (OR = 1.53, 95% CI = 1.21-1.93), and quality of life was associated with less use of prescribed herbal products (OR 0.69, 95% CI = 0.55-0.87), tai chi (OR = 0.62, 95% CI = 0.50-0.78), and other traditional medicine (OR = 0.47, 95% CI = 0.40-0.56). These findings call for further investigation of TCM use by Chinese older adults, especially those with poor health and those with better quality of life. In the clinical setting, physicians should have awareness of TCM when treating Chinese older adults and look toward possible integration with Western medicine for more culturally appropriate, patient-centered care.