Less than 10 percent in U.S. use smartphone apps for health

Despite the widespread availability of smartphone apps for health and medical purposes, just 9 percent of American adults with cell phones have downloaded apps to help them track or manage their own health, a new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation says. And even though 85 percent of U.S. adults have cell phones, only 17 percent of that group have looked up health information on their phones.

What this says, according to report author Susannah Fox, Pew's associate director for digital strategy, is that most people would rather talk to a real person or see a professional when they have health questions. "Family members and friends are still where people turn most often for health information and advice," Fox tells eWeek. "If they're really sick, people still want to see a doctor or a nurse." Many people will go online--from a mobile device or a full-fledged computer--for supplemental information, though.

Not surprisingly, mobile usage is highest among young adults. Fifteen percent of those 18 to 29 years old have downloaded health apps, while 29 percent of this group have searched for health information from mobile devices. At the other end of the age spectrum, just 8 percent of people 65 or older, and 7 percent of the 50 to 64 age range, have looked up health data on cell phones, according to the report.

"We're talking about a saturation point for people in their 20s," Fox explains. "For 29 percent of that population to be looking for health information is a pretty interesting data point, because they are early adopters in terms of all types of mobile applications."

By race and ethnicity, 15 percent of African-Americans have downloaded health apps, more than twice the rate for whites. Hispanics are most likely to research health information on their phones, with 25 percent of this group saying they do so, compared to 19 percent for African-Americans and 15 percent for whites.

To see more data:
- download the Pew report (.pdf)
- take a look at this eWeek story