Video: Stanford Medical Student Joyce Ho interviews Susannah Fox about her report, “Tracking for Health."
Seven in ten (69%) U.S. adults track a health indicator for themselves or a loved one and many say this activity has changed their overall approach to health, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. In all:
- 60% of U.S. adults say they track their weight, diet, or exercise routine.
- 33% of U.S. adults track health indicators or symptoms, like blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches, or sleep patterns.
- 12% of U.S. adults track health indicators or symptoms for a loved one.
However, their tracking is often informal:
- 49% of trackers say they keep track of progress “in their heads.”
- 34% say they track the data on paper, like in a notebook or journal.
- 21% say they use some form of technology to track their health data, such as a spreadsheet, website, app, or device.
This question allowed multiple responses, but in sum: 50% of trackers record their notes in some organized way, such as on paper or using technology, and 44% of trackers do so only in their heads.
This is the first national survey measuring health data tracking, which has been shown in clinical studies to be a tool for improving outcomes, particularly among people trying to lose weight or manage a chronic condition. The Pew Internet survey finds that:
- 46% of trackers say that this activity has changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care.
- 40% of trackers say it has led them to ask a doctor new questions or to get a second opinion from another doctor.
- 34% of trackers say it has affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition.
About the Survey
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.
Support for this study was provided by the California HealthCare Foundation, an independent philanthropy committed to improving the way health care is delivered and financed in California.