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Examining complementary medicine informal healthcare use for depression and anxiety in older adults.

Project Member(s): Adams, J., Lauche, R.

Start year: 2015

Summary: More than two-thirds of Australians collectively spend $ 3.1Billion on complementary medicine (CM) annually and the bulk of this expenditure is for ‘covert’ CM informal health care (CM IHC) beyond state funding and health professional guidance. CM IHC use (including vitamins, herbal medicines, and practices like meditation and yoga) is high amongst adults over 60 years for both health maintenance and in response to illness. It is especially prevalent for chronic illness in later life including depression/anxiety. Conventional health care continues to struggle to provide adequate care for chronically ill older adults and while mental health management strategies have strongly advocated greater patient-centred care, the extent to which these have transferred into practice remains negligible. CM IHC use amongst older adults poses significant challenges and opportunities for community health, the Australian health system and contemporary public health scholarship: CM IHC use holds potential risk and inefficiencies around patients’ safety and coordination of care and is a potential site for further social disadvantage and inequality around care access and health outcomes. Meanwhile, it may hold new opportunities to support the burgeoning ageing population to cope with chronic illness and maintain quality of life. Unfortunately, we still know very little about this major component of health maintenance and treatment behaviours amongst older Australians with depression and anxiety. This study aims to systematically map the profile of CM IHC practices across a large cohort of older Australians who currently live with depression and anxiety; provide insight into the patterning of access to, and experience of, CM IHC for depression and anxiety and develop new theoretical perspectives and provide new conceptual advances in understanding CM IHC use for depression and anxiety, with a focus on individual experience and social structure.

Keywords: Complementary medicine, Informal health care, Health care utilization, Depression, Anxiety, Ageing and health.

FOR Codes: Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified, Aged Health Care, Mental Health, Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified