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Characteristics of Yoga Users: Results of a National Survey

Abstract

Background

There are limited data on the characteristics of yoga users in the U.S.

Objective

To characterize yoga users, medical reasons for use, perceptions of helpfulness, and disclosure of use to medical professionals.

Methods

Utilizing cross-sectional survey data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Alternative Medicine Supplement (n = 31044), we examined correlates of yoga use for health. The estimated prevalence from 2002 NHIS of yoga for health was 5.1% corresponding to over 10 million adults.

Results

In 2002, yoga users were predominately Caucasian (85%) and female (76%) with a mean age of 39.5 years. Compared to non-yoga users, yoga users were more likely female (OR 3.76, 95% CI 3.11–4.33); less likely black than white (OR 0.65, 95% CI 0.53–0.80); tended to be younger; and more likely college educated (OR 2.70, 95% CI 2.37–3.08). Musculoskeletal conditions (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.42–1.83), mental health conditions (OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.22–1.67), severe sprains in the last 12 months (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.22–1.81), and asthma (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.05–1.54) were independently associated with higher yoga use, while hypertension (OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.64–0.95) and chronic obstructive lung disease (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.48–1.00) were associated with lower use. Yoga was most commonly used to treat musculoskeletal or mental health conditions, and most users reported yoga to be helpful for these conditions. A majority of yoga users (61%) felt yoga was important in maintaining health, though only 25% disclosed yoga practice to their medical professional.

Conclusions

We found that yoga users are more likely to be white, female, young and college educated. Yoga users report benefit for musculoskeletal conditions and mental health, indicating that further research on the efficacy of yoga for the treatment and/or prevention of these conditions is warranted.

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Acknowledgements

Dr. Birdee is supported by an Institutional National Research Service Award (T32AT00051–06) from National Institutes of Health. Dr. Russell Phillips is supported by a Mid-Career Investigator Award from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health (K24-AT000589). A portion of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, Toronto, Canada, April, 2007. The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or the National Institutes of Health. We thank Roger Davis ScD for review of an earlier version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gurjeet S. Birdee MD, MPH.

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Birdee, G.S., Legedza, A.T., Saper, R.B. et al. Characteristics of Yoga Users: Results of a National Survey. J GEN INTERN MED 23, 1653–1658 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-008-0735-5

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KEY WORDS

  • yoga
  • complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
  • behavioral medicine