News Release

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Americans who practice Yoga report better wellness, health behaviors

Analysis reveals reasons for use of yoga, supplements, and spinal manipulation.

People who practiced yoga or took natural products (dietary supplements other than vitamins and minerals) were more likely to do so for wellness reasons than to treat a specific health condition, according to analysis of data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Yoga users reported the most positive health benefits, compared to users of natural products and spinal manipulation. The analysis by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) was published in a National Health Statistics Report by the National Center for Health Statistics.

“Though yoga seems to play the biggest role, people who use a variety of complementary health approaches reported better wellbeing,” said Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of NCCIH. “This may suggest that people perceive more wellness benefit when they are actively involved in their health, for example by practicing yoga. More research is needed to better understand the ways yoga and other approaches impact overall health.”

The NHIS is an annual study in which thousands of Americans are interviewed about their health- and illness-related experiences. The 2012 NHIS asked participants about their use of complementary health approaches and whether they used them to treat a specific health condition or for any of five wellness-related reasons. Participants were also asked whether this use led to any of nine desirable health-related outcomes. The survey results are based on data from 34,525 adults aged 18 and older.

This analysis provides estimates of selected wellness-related reasons for and outcomes from the use of three complementary health approaches: natural product supplements; yoga; and spinal manipulation. Yoga users were much more likely than users of other approaches to report specific wellness-related outcomes, such as feeling better emotionally. They were also the most likely to report exercising more, eating better, and cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes. While the analysis did not show why yoga users reported greater wellness, more than 70 percent of yoga users reported a “focus on the whole person — mind, body and spirit” as a reason for practicing yoga. Specific findings of the analysis included:

  • “General wellness or disease prevention” was the most common wellness-related reason for use of each of the three approaches.
  • More than two-thirds of users of all three health approaches reported that their use improved their overall health and made them feel better.
  • Nearly two-thirds of yoga users reported that as a result of practicing yoga they were motivated to exercise more regularly, and 4 in 10 reported they were motivated to eat healthier.
  • More than 80 percent of yoga users reported reduced stress as a result of practicing yoga.
  • Although dietary supplement users were twice as likely to report wellness rather than treatment as a reason for taking supplements, fewer than 1 in 4 reported reduced stress, better sleep, or feeling better emotionally as a result of using dietary supplements.
  • More than 60 percent of those using spinal manipulation reported doing so to treat a specific health condition, and more than 50 percent did so for general wellness or disease prevention.

“The NHIS is the principle source of health information on U.S. adults. Our results suggest that complementary health approaches may play an important role in promoting positive health behaviors, including those we know impact chronic conditions,” said Barbara Stussman, statistician for NCCIH and author of the analysis. 

About the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): NCCIH’s mission is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health approaches and their roles in improving health and health care. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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