Pew Research conducted a survey of over 3000 American adults to ascertain their health tracking behavior. (Pew Survey) About 70% said they track at least one health indicator, with 60% saying they tracked weight or exercise. Another 12% said they track a health indicator for a family member or other close person. People with chronic conditions don’t track weight and exercise more than others, but they do track other indicators more frequently, like blood pressure or blood sugar levels. In a somewhat surprising finding, almost 50% of those who track a health indicator just do it mentally, in their heads. Another 34% use a paper method and only 21% use some type of technology. People with multiple chronic conditions were more likely to keep track in an organized manner. About 34% share the data they track with another person, and about half of those do so with a clinician.
Many people who track an indicator say it has helped change their overall approach to managing and maintaining their health or the health of another person for whom they help provide care. Many also said it led them to ask new questions of their doctor or even to seek second opinions and over a third say such tracking has affected their decision about how to treat an illness or condition. And again, as might be expected, people with chronic disease are more likely to be influenced by their tracking activity and its results. In regard to smartphone users, about 20% have downloaded an app to help track or manage health. Women, people under 50 and those with a better education and income over $75,000 are significantly more likely to download such an app. Exercise and diet apps are the most popular. The attention people pay to their health seems to be growing and eventually might help improve health outcomes.