A Third of Cell Phone Owners Search For Health Information

by , Nov 28, 2012, 7:25 AM
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According to The Pew Internet & American Life Project, in conjunction with Princeton Survey Research, 85% of U.S. adults own a cell phone, and 31% of them have used their phone to look for health information. Two years ago, only 17% of cell phone owners had used their phones to look for health advice.

Smartphone owners lead this activity: 52% gather health information on their phones, compared with 6% of non-smartphone owners. Cell phone owners who are Latino, African American, between the ages of 18-49, or hold a college degree are also more likely to gather health information this way.

80% of cell phone owners say they send and receive text messages, but just 9% of cell phone owners say they receive any text updates or alerts about health or medical issues. Women, those between the ages of 30 and 64, and smartphone owners are more likely than other cell phone owners to have signed up for health text alerts.

Smartphones enable the use of mobile software applications to help people track or manage their health. Some 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Exercise, diet, and weight apps are the most popular types. Mobile health continues to climb in popularity, especially among smartphone owners.

Among all cell phone owners, some demographic groups are more likely than others to look for health information on their phones: Latinos, African Americans, those between the ages of 18 and 49, and college graduates.

Mobile Health Information Seekers’ Demographics (% of cell phone owners within each group who use their phones to look for health or medical information online)

Segment

% of Respondents

All cell phone owners

31%

   Men

29

   Women

33

Age

   18-29

42

   30-49

39

   50-64

19

   65+

9

Race/ethnicity

   White, Non-Hispanic

27

   Black, Non-Hispanic

35

   Hispanic

38

Annual household income

   Less than $30,000/yr

28

   $30,000-$49,999

30

   $50,000-$74,999

37

   $75,000+

37

Education level

   No high school diploma

17

   High school grad

26

   Some College

33

   College + 

38

Source: Pew Internet/CHCF Health Survey, November 2012

Mobile health information also seems to appeal to certain groups of health consumers: caregivers, people who went through a recent medical crisis, and those who experienced a recent, significant change in their physical health such as gaining or losing a lot of weight, becoming pregnant, or quitting smoking.

Mobile Health Information by Phone: Health Status (% of cell phone owners within each group who use their phone to look for health or medical information online)

Group & Health Status

% of Respondents

All cell phone owners

31%

Caregiver

   Yes

37

   No

27

Those with chronic conditions

   No conditions

34

   One or more conditions

26

Faced medical crisis in last 12 months

   Yes

40

   No

30

Significant health change in last 12 months

   Yes

41

   No

28

Source: Pew Internet/CHCF Health Survey, November 2012

In 2010, when the same percentage of U.S. adults owned cell phones, 17% of cell phone owners reported using their phones to access health information. Today, that number stands at 31%, almost double the previous figure.

Nearly all demographic groups report significant increases in this activity, with the exception of those over 65 and those who did not complete high school. A few groups stand out: cell phone owners who are African American, college graduates, women, those with an annual household income between $50,000 and $74,999, and those between the ages of 30-49. Smartphone ownership has greatly increased over the last two years and no doubt had an effect on this trend.

Health Information Accessed by Phone,Then and Now (% of cell phone owners within each group who use their phone to look up health or medical information)

Category

2010

2012

All cell phone owners

17%

31%

   Men

17

29

   Women

16

33

Age

   18-29

29

42

   30-49

18

39

   50-64

7

19

   65+ 8

9

 

Race/Ethnicity

   White, non-Hispanic

15

27

   Black, non-Hispanic

19

35

   Hispanic

25

38

Annual household income

   Less than $30,000/yr

15

28

   $30,000-$49,999

17

30

   $50,000-$74,999

17

37

   $75,000+

22

37

Education level

   No high school diploma

16

17

   High School grad 1

2

26

   Some college

21

33

   College+

20

38

Source: Pew Internet/CHCF Health Survey, November 2012

 

 

Text messaging is a nearly universal activity, especially among younger cell phone owners, but it has not yet had a significant impact on the health market. 80% of cell phone owners say they send and receive text messages, but just 9% of cell phone owners say they receive any text updates or alerts about health or medical issues.

Health Apps Users (% of smartphone owners within each group who have software applications on their phone to track or manage health

Category

% of Respondents

All smartphone owners

19%

   Men

16

   Women

23

Age

   18-29

24

   30-49

19

   50-64

16

   65+

10

Race/ethnicity

   White, Non-Hispanic

19

   Black, Non-Hispanic

21

   Hispanic

15

Annual household income

   Less than $30,000/yr

14

   $30,000-$49,999

21

   $50,000-$74,999

21

   $75,000+

23

Education level

   High school grad

11

   Some College

24

   College +

22

Source: Pew Internet/CHCF Health Survey, November 2012

Source, all data: Pew Internet/CHCF Health Survey, August 7-September 6, 2012. N=3,014 adults ages 18+. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish, on landline and cell phones. Margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points for results based on cell phone owners.

For additional information and the PDF file, please visit PewInternet here.

 

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