Traditional medicine is broadly used across Asian societies for various medical conditions and health concerns. However, there remains a wide disparity between users and non-use, which makes it imperative to understand the factors affecting the lay perception and utilization of traditional medicine. This study systematically examined the demographic, medical, and socioeconomic factors affecting belief in and use of traditional medicine among older adults of Shanghai, China.
We used the data from Survey of Life and Opinion on Shanghai Older Adults in 2013 with a sample of 3418 older adults aged 50 years or older. The multilevel logistic models were applied to examine the associations between faith and utilization of traditional medicine and a set of factors of the respondents, including demographics (gender, age, rural/urban residence), socioeconomic status (educational attainment, income, primary occupation), social support (marital status, social network), and disease/conditions. The associations between individual use of traditional medicine and the profile of socioeconomic development and the medical services conditions of local communities were also modelled.
We found that cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, cancer, prostatitis, arthritis, and nervous system diseases were positive correlates for using traditional medicine. Older adults who had a cancer, a prostatitis, or a fracture had more faith in traditional treatment. Rural living, higher educational attainment, and white-collar occupation promoted the use of traditional medicine. A higher number of strong social ties and a tie connected with medical staff were positive factors of use as well.
The belief in and use of traditional medicine were prevalent among older adults in Shanghai, China. Though not conclusive, our study suggested that traditional medicine in China appears to serve two distinct functions, namely complementary medicine for those socioeconomically advantaged whereas alternative medicine for those socioeconomically disadvantaged.
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