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SmartPhones and Health

By April 7, 2015Commentary

The smartphone has become an omnipresent appendage for many Americans, and “mobile” health is a focus for both startup and established health care firms.  A new Pew Research report gives data on who has smartphones and what they use them for.  (Pew Report)   The report is largely based on survey responses from 2188 users in fall of 2014.  64% of American adults currently own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011.  Use is highest among younger, wealthier and more educated people.  For some, a smartphone is their only access to the internet.  For 7%, a smartphone is basically their only method to get online and for another 12% the alternatives for internet access is limited.  Younger people and low-income persons and minorities are particularly dependent on the smartphone for their internet use.  But this subset is also the most likely to have issues maintaining smartphone availability, either because they can’t pay their phone bills or because they reach a data maximum.  Among uses of a smartphone, health ranks highest, with 62% of owners saying they have used it to get information about a health condition in the last year.  Online banking is next at 57% and seeking information about a place to live third at 44%.  And again, young adults are more likely to engage in this behavior with 77% saying they have sought health information via this channel.  While most users report positive feelings about their smartphones, a significant number find them at least occasionally distracting, or a burden.  A hidden health issue regarding smartphones is why people use them, very large percents in every age group say they help avoid being bored, with an amazing 93% of adults 18-29 giving this response, and another significant group says they use the phones to avoid others around them, again 47% of those 18-29 report this behavior.  Does the phrase “get a life, a real life” ring a bell?  You have to wonder if the overall impact of smartphones is to promote good relationships and a happier existence.

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