Complementary and alternative medicine use and absenteeism among individuals with chronic disease

Mongiovi, Jennifer; Shi, Zaixing; Greenlee, Heather

It is estimated that over half of the adult U.S. population currently has one or more chronic conditions, resulting in up to an estimated $1,600 in productivity loss annually for each employee with chronic disease. Previous studies have suggested that integrating alternative or complementary health approaches with conventional medicine may be beneficial for managing the symptoms, lifestyle changes, treatment, physical and psychosocial consequences that result from chronic illness.

Using the 2012 National Health Interview Survey Data, we examined the associations between self-reported use of various forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies (dietary supplements, mind-body practices) and the number of days missed from job or business in the past 12 months due to illness or injury. Multivariable Poisson regression was used to determine the association between CAM use and absence from work among individuals with one or more chronic disease (n = 10,196).

Over half (54 %) of the study population reported having one chronic disease, while 19 % had three or more conditions. The three most common chronic diseases were high cholesterol (48 %), arthritis (35 %) and hypertension (31 %). More participants used dietary supplements (72 %) while fewer individuals reported using mind-body practices (17 %) in the past twelve months. Over half of individuals reported missing any number of days from job or business due to illness or injury (53 %). Of those who had missed any days from work, 42 % missed one or two days, 36 % missed three to five days, and 23 % missed six days or more. The rate of missing days from job or business due to injury or illness increased among those who reported use of mind-body practices (Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR) = 1.55, 95 % CI: 1.09, 2.21). There was no association between use of dietary supplements and absenteeism (IRR = 1.13, 95 % CI: 0.85, 1.51).

In a population of individuals with chronic disease, individuals who reported use of mind-body practices had higher rate of absenteeism due to injury or illness. Future studies should examine the effects CAM on symptoms associated with chronic disease and whether managing these symptoms can reduce absence from work, school, and other responsibilities.


Dietary supplements Mind-body practices Complementary and alternative medicine Employee health Absenteeism Chronic disease


  • thumnail for art_3A10.1186_2Fs12906-016-1195-9.pdf art_3A10.1186_2Fs12906-016-1195-9.pdf application/pdf 474 KB Download File

Also Published In

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
November 10, 2016