Trends in Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong Use Among US Adults, 2002–2017

Claudia (Chunyun) Wang, PhD; Kaigang Li, PhD; Arkopal Choudhury, MS; Susan Gaylord, PhD

Disclosures

Am J Public Health. 2019;109(5):755-761. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Objectives: To examine the characteristics and temporal trends of yoga, tai chi, and qigong (YTQ) use among US adults.

Methods: Using the 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017 National Health Interview Surveys, we examined the prevalence, patterns, and predicting factors of YTQ use by Taylor series linear regression, the Wald F χ 2 test, and multivariable logistic regression models (n = 116 404).

Results: YTQ use increased from 5.8% in 2002 to 14.5% in 2017 (P ≤ .001). Only 6.6% of YTQ users were referred by their medical doctors, and approximately one third disclosed their use of YTQ to medical professionals. Reasons for using YTQ included (1) YTQ was beneficial, (2) YTQ focused on the whole person, and (3) YTQ was natural. Acute and chronic pain, arthritis, and depression were the top 3 medical conditions for which people used YTQ the most.

Conclusions: YTQ use is increasing substantially, mainly because of its natural and holistic healing approach toward health and chronic diseases. Future studies aiming to explore how to best integrate YTQ into the current health care system are warranted.

Introduction

Yoga, tai chi, and qigong (YTQ) are mind–body therapies that have been widely used for health promotion and disease prevention in ancient China and India for thousands of years. In general, YTQ share common components that integrate physical movements (i.e., physical postures, or asana), breathing exercises (i.e., deep belly breathing, or pranayama), and meditation (i.e., mental focus or regulation) for physical and psychological health, self-awareness, and spiritual growth.[1,2]

Emerging evidence suggests that there are substantial health benefits from regularly practicing YTQ. For example, studies have demonstrated that YTQ can reduce pain, improve mental health, improve balance, prevent falls, and reduce symptoms related to arthritis and fibromyalgia and that these therapies may enhance a healthy lifestyle and contribute to healthy aging among middle-aged and older adults.[3–9] The promising results regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of YTQ have provided a solid foundation for more people to turn to YTQ in the United States in the past few decades.

Although there are indications that the popularity of YTQ is increasing, only a few studies have provided detailed information about the prevalence, patterns of use, and predicting factors for YTQ use. Even fewer studies have examined the temporal trends of YTQ use in the United States. Among previous studies that have provided sporadic information about YTQ use among US adults, Birdee et al.[10] and Cramer et al.[11] described the characteristics of yoga use. Lauche et al.[12] briefly reported the characteristics of tai chi and qigong use. Rhee et al.[3] described the prevalence and racial/ethnic differences regarding YTQ use among adults with moderate mental health issues. Clarke et al.[13]summarized basic demographics of YTQ use within the context of overall complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use. To our knowledge, no study has systematically examined the temporal trends and changing characteristics of YTQ use among US adults over the past 15 years at the national level.[14]

To address this knowledge gap and to inform practice, education, and future directions of YTQ research, we aimed to (1) provide updated information about the changes in prevalence of YTQ use, (2) describe the patterns of and reasons for using YTQ to treat specific medical conditions, and (3) identify the predicting factors associated with YTQ use by using multiyear nationally representative samples of US adults, spanning 15 years.

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