Rural senior citizens
prefer self-care over doctors medical advice
Seniors over age 65
living in rural North Carolina believe they can control their health
better than a medical professional
By Valerie DeBenedette,
HBNS Contributing Writer
Aug. 21, 2013 - A
survey of older rural adults found a high degree of medical skepticism,
the belief that one knows and can control their own health better than a
medical professional can, reports a recent study in the Journal of
Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. For some, these beliefs
correlate with a higher tendency toward self-care.
The researchers evaluated survey responses
from 198 people, either African American or White and over 65 years old
living in three rural counties in North Carolina.
To determine levels of
medical skepticism, they were asked whether they believed they could
overcome illness without the help of a medical professional, whether
they thought home remedies were often better than prescribed drugs, and
if they felt they understood their health better than most doctors.
They were also asked about their use in the
past year of various home remedies including - honey, vinegar, baking
soda, olive oil, whiskey, or petroleum jelly; vitamin or mineral
supplements; herbal remedies such as garlic or ginseng; supplements such as fish oil; or alternative medical practitioners such as
chiropractors, physical therapists, or massage therapists, or self-care
practices such as meditation, relaxation techniques or exercise.
What we hypothesized was that people with
high levels of medical skepticism would be more likely to use
complementary therapy, said Ronny A. Bell, Ph.D., professor of
epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest School of Medicine in
Winston-Salem, N.C., and a lead author on the study.
They found 59.6 percent of respondents said
they believed that their own behavior determined their health, while
19.7 percent said they could overcome illness without help.
Overall, people who had reported use of any
self-care therapy were more than four times more likely to report they
could overcome illness without help from a health care provider. No
other significant correlations between medical skepticism and the use of
complementary therapies were found, but most people reported using home
remedies, vitamins or mineral supplements or a self-care therapy. The
researchers say more research is needed to determine the motivations
behind the use of complementary therapies.
Health professionals need to communicate
with their elderly and rural patients about folk remedies and
supplements and about their attitudes toward health professionals, say
"We are trying to make a case for getting a
feel for a patient's orientation to the health care they are receiving,"
"If a doctor has a hard time getting a
patient to follow medical advice, it may be because he or she does not
think it will make a difference for them. [Doctors] have to ask about
complementary therapies," he added. For instance, many folk remedies and
supplements can cause side effects and can interact with prescribed
The findings are not surprising, said
Leigh F. Callahan, Ph.D., professor of social medicine at the Thurston
Arthritis Research Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Older people in rural areas often live
where their parents and grandparents lived and complementary treatments
and folk remedies are handed down in the family," she noted. Folk
remedies are often used to treat arthritis and conditions that cause
chronic pain or that interfere with sleep, she noted. "You want
clinicians to have good overview of what is someone is taking,
prescribed or not."
Source: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing