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2006 Massage Therapy Consumer Survey

Massage Therapy: Not Just a Trend

Annual survey looks at growth of massage therapy over 10 years

(Evanston, IL - October 23, 2006) - Massage therapy has been a growing trend in American culture, with 39 million American adults – more than one out of every 6 – getting a massage annually. While relaxation (26 percent) is still a motive for Americans integrating massage into their routines, using massage therapy for medical purposes (30 percent) such as injury recovery, pain reduction, headache control, and for their overall health and wellness, is even more prevalent, according to a recent survey commissioned by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

The following is a look at how the world of massage therapy has evolved for Americans, including use in their healthcare regimens and the growing popularity of massage for Generations X and Y.

The Rise of Massage in Healthcare

With the growth in the popularity and use of massage therapy, more people are discussing it with their doctors and healthcare providers, and more healthcare professionals are recommending massage therapy as part of a patient’s overall health.

  • On their mind: Nine million more people discussed massage therapy with their doctor or healthcare provider this year than five years ago.

  • Doctor’s orders: Almost twice as many doctors recommended it to their patients this year than five years ago, among those who discussed massage therapy with their doctors.

  • Providers weigh in: While physicians led the way for recommending massage therapy when asked (59 percent), nearly half of all chiropractors (48 percent) and physical therapists (47 percent) also recommended massage when patients inquired.

  • Insurance adds: Seventy-nine percent of 25- to 35-year-olds would like to have their health insurance plan cover massage, the highest percentage among age groups; 63 percent of Americans would be more inclined to try massage therapy if it was offered in conjunction with other healthcare treatments.

Who’s Getting Massage?

Whether Americans are getting massage therapy at a spa, as part of their chiropractic visit, at their health club, or even at work, the use of massage therapy has increased from 10 years ago.

  • More massage: Twenty-five million more Americans each year are getting a massage today than they did 10 years ago.

  • Men vs. women: The number of both men and women who received a massage in the last year has double since 1997 but, at 23 percent, women still get the most massages.

  • A booming industry: Older baby boomers (ages 55 to 64) have tripled their use of massage over the past 10 years, as did those ages 65 and older.

  • Regional reach: The region that has most increased its use of massage over the last 10 years is the North Central (up from 8 percent to 19 percent of those surveyed). Use of massage per year at least doubled in all regions – the Northeast up from 9 percent to 18 percent, the South up from 7 percent to 16 percent and the West up from 11 percent to 19 percent. The percentage of both metro and non-metro residents getting massage has increased by 9 percent points since 1997.

The Future of Massage

One of the reasons massage therapy’s popularity is on the rise is its use by Americans ages 18 to 34 (Generations X and Y). The annual AMTA surveys points to the acceptance and use of massage as someone ages, and considering the younger generations’ views and use of massage it will likely surpass previous generations as they rely on massage for therapeutic reasons and stress relief.

  • More than a luxury: Only 28 percent of Gen Y (18- to 24-year-olds) agree that massage is just a luxury, compared to 94 percent that agree it can be beneficial to their health. Gen Xers agree: 92 percent believe massage can be beneficial to their health.

  • Massage or medication: Massage therapy was three times more popular as a form of pain relief among 18- to 24-year-olds than medication (34 percent for massage versus 10 percent for medication).

  • Pain relief: Ninety-eight percent of Gen X respondents believe massage can be an effective way to relieve pain and 37 percent have already had a massage to relieve pain, while 48 percent of Gen Y have used massage to relieve pain.

About the Survey Findings

The annual consumer survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International August 10-13, 2006, among a national probability sample of 1,013 adults (508 men and 505 women) ages 18 and older, living in private households in the continental United States. The survey has a confidence level of plus or minus three percent. Commissioned by AMTA, this is the tenth annual massage therapy survey of American consumers.

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Chris B., AMTA member since 2012

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