ATLANTA — Alternative therapies, including yoga, meditation, herbs and Atkins-style diets, appeared to be growing in popularity in the United States, perhaps because of dissatisfaction with conventional care, the government said Thursday.
More than a third of American adults followed such practices in 2002, according to the government survey of 31,000 people, the largest study of nonconventional approaches in the United States.
If prayer is included, about 62% of U.S. adults used some form of alternative practice.
The results seemed to indicate more people were turning to alternative therapies, though the 2002 survey could not be directly compared to previous studies because of differences in size and survey methods, health officials said.
The top alternative therapies included prayer (43% of adults), natural products (19%), meditation (8%) and diets such as Atkins, Ornish or the Zone (4%).
More people also were using natural products such as herbs or enzymes to treat chronic or recurring pain, said Richard Nahin of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health.
"Many conditions are not easily treated with conventional medicine," Nahin said. "It may be the public is turning to complementary and alternative medicine because it's not getting relief from conventional medicine."
But people should not be turning away from conventional treatments that are proven safe, said Dr. Stephen Straus, director of the alternative medicine center. "People are making individual decisions to neglect those therapies and we have concerns about those choices," he said.
Health officials said they were concerned that 13% of those surveyed said they turned to alternative therapies because regular medicine was too expensive.