Americans are spending billions of dollars on complementary and alternative medicine including chiropractic care, yoga, acupuncture and natural supplements, a new study found.
How much? In 2012 alone, Americans paid more than $30 billion out-of-pocket expenditures for chiropractors as well as other alternative health practitioners, medicine and supplements.
According to study co-author Richard Nahin from the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the significant number of Americans who spend billions on complementary and alternative medicine, which are not covered by health insurance, is an indication that people believe enough in the alternative approaches' value to pay for them.
Breaking it down, the study found that Americans spent $14.7 billion of their own money to visit alternative health practitioners such as yoga instructors, chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists. This amount is almost 30 percent of what Americans spent on conventional medical services.
As for natural supplements, Americans spent approximately $12.8 billion, which was about 25 percent of what they spend on prescriptions drugs. In 2012, Americans also spent $2.7 billion on CDs, videos, books and other self-help materials connected to complementary health.
The researchers found that approximately $28 billion of the out-of-pocket expenditures were spent on adults along with a mere $1.9 billion spent on children.
"These expenditures, although a small fraction of total health care spending in the U.S., constitute a substantial part of out-of-pocket health care costs and are comparable to out-of-pocket costs for conventional physician services and prescription drug use," added Nahin, the NCCIH's lead epidemiologist.
High-income households, who made at least $100,000 or more every year, paid alternative health practitioners an average of $518 and paid for natural supplements for an average of $377 in 2012.
But the study also found that spending on complementary and alternative medicine was not limited to mid- and high-income individuals.
Households with an annual income of less than $25,000 spent an average of $314 using their own money to pay alternative health practitioners in 2012. These families also spent an average of $389 to buy natural supplements.
Stephanie Romanoff, the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine's communications director, said that the demand for complementary medicine has led to more research that analyzes how the alternative approaches work. This increase then provided consumers with more information.
The study looked at the data of 44,743 individuals in the United States aged 4 and above who took part in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. The findings were published in the National Health Statistics Reports [PDF].