November 8, 2012

Mobile Health 2012

Overview

Mobile health has found its market: smartphone owners

Fully 85% of U.S. adults own a cell phone. Of those, 53% own smartphones. This report will provide details about both groups—people who own a cell phone of any kind and the smaller group of people who own smartphones.

One in three cell phone owners (31%) have used their phone to look for health information. In a comparable, national survey conducted two years ago, 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.

Health status also plays a role. Caregivers, those who recently faced a medical crisis, and those who experienced a recent, significant change in their physical health are more likely than other cell phone owners to use their phones to look for health information.

Few receive text alerts about health or medical issues

A whopping 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.

One-fifth of smartphone owners have a health app

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.

About this study

The results reported here come from a nationwide survey of 3,014 adults living in the United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (1,808) and cell phone (1,206, including 624 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Interviews were done in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from August 7 to September 6, 2012. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±2.4 percentage points.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues.

Support for this study was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the California HealthCare Foundation.

Cite this publication: Susannah Fox and Maeve Duggan. “Mobile Health 2012.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (November 8, 2012) http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/11/08/mobile-health-2012/, accessed on July 22, 2014.