Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Factors Associated with herb and dietary supplement use by young adults in the United States

Paula Gardiner14*, Kathi J Kemper2, Anna Legedza3 and Russell S Phillips3

Author Affiliations

1 Boston University Medical School, Department of Family Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics, Public Health Sciences and Family and Community Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

3 Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

4 Department of Family Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, 1 Boston Medical Center Place, Dowling 5 South Boston, MA 02118, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2007, 7:39  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-7-39

Published: 30 November 2007



Little is known about the association between use of herbs and dietary supplements (HDS) and lifestyle/behavior factors in young adults in the US.


Analyzing the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), we examined the patterns of HDS (excluding vitamins/minerals) use among young adults in the United States using descriptive statistics and logistic regression.


In our sample of 18 to 30 year olds (n = 6666), 26% were current smokers, 24% were moderate/heavy drinkers, 43% had high physical activity, and 54% and 76% use prescription and over the counter (OTC) medications respectively. Non-vitamin, non-mineral HDS was used by 17% of the overall sample in the last 12 months. In the multivariable analysis, the lifestyle and behavioral factors associated with HDS use include: current smoking (odds ratio 1.41 95% CI [1.16–1.72]); being a former smoker (1.50 [1.15–1.95]); moderate/heavy alcohol use (2.02 [1.53–2.65]); high physical activity levels (2.45 [1.98–3.03]); and prescription medication use (1.51 [1.26–1.81]). Among HDS users, only 24% discussed their use with a health care professional.


Nearly one in five young adults report using non-vitamin/non-mineral HDS.