Pew: Smartphone owners increasingly use their devices to get health info

More than half of smartphone owners use their devices to get health info and one-fifth of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone, according to the 2012 mobile health survey released Nov. 8 by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

Based on the responses from participants, the survey concluded that mHealth has "found its market" with smartphone owners. Among the proof: 52 percent of smartphone owners have looked up health information on their phone, compared with just 6 percent of other cell phone owners.

According to the report, 85 percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone, with half owning smartphones that "expand their mobile internet access and enables mobile software applications." Smartphone ownership has greatly increased over the last two years and no doubt had an effect on this trend, the report's authors stated.

In September, a Pew survey indicated that African Americans and Latinos are more likely than whites to own a smartphone, with 49 percent of Latinos, 47 percent of African Americans, and 42 percent of whites owning the devices. Among all cell phone owners, the latest Pew survey found that certain demographic groups were more likely than others to look for health information on their phone, namely African Americans, Latinos, those between the ages of 18 and 49, and college graduates. 

At the same time, the survey also showed that women--particularly those under age 50, those better educated, and those with an annual household income over $75,000--are more likely to have downloaded a health app, as are those who have faced a significant health change in the last 12 months. About 38 percent of health app users track their exercise, while 31 percent monitor their diet and 12 percent manage their weight, Pew found. Other popular health apps according to the survey included tracking menstrual cycles, blood pressure, pregnancy, blood sugar or diabetes, and medication.

According to the survey results, while text messaging is a nearly universal activity, especially among younger cell phone owners, it has yet to have a significant impact on the health market. Only 9 percent of cell phone owners in the survey indicated that they receive any text updates or alerts about health or medical issues. Women between the ages of 30 and 64, as well as smartphone owners, are more likely than other cell phone owners to have signed up for health text alerts, Pew reported.

The survey of 3,014 adults living in the United States was conducted between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, which studies the social impact of the Internet, technology, and gadgets on society.

To learn more:
- check out the survey