More Smartphone Users Turning to Mobile for Health Info
Quick, look at your smartphone and count how many of your apps are health-related. A new survey on Mobile Health from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds 19% of smartphone users have at least one health app downloaded onto their device.
Perhaps you use a fitness app like MyFitnessPal or a calorie counter such as Lose It! Or maybe you just use your phone to gather health data and look up info on headache remedies or caregivers.
If so, you’re among a growing trend, according to Pew Associate Director Susannah Fox, who authored the report. It found one in three cell phone owners have used their phone to look for health information. That’s up from 17% which is what a similar survey taken two years found.
Why the uptick? With 45% of U.S. adults now owning a smartphone, people don’t have to wait to get a question answered. Your internet-connected phone has become a mobile information device; a personal appliance that people have with them all the time.
Fox likens it to the transition we experienced in 2002 and 2003 when dial-up gave way to Broadband connectivity in the home. It made it easier to find health care, among other important information. The same transition is happening now with the prevalence of smartphones. “You had to go find the Internet,” Fox tells Mashable, “whereas now the Internet is with you wherever you are.”
What are we searching for? Many of the 52% of smartphone users who gather health information on their phones look for topics like caring for a loved one, or to find answers when facing a medical crisis.
Others say they use apps when they’re looking to, or have made, a make a significant health change in their lives. Exercise, diet and weight apps top the list. Mashable has written numerous stories on the availability of apps for this market but, given how popular it’s becoming, it looks like there’s room for growth.
Smartphone users reach for health apps to track their exercise (38%), monitor their diet (31%), and manage their weight (12%), according to the nationwide survey of 3,014 adults living in the U.S. Others use health apps to monitor blood pressure, diabetes, and even track their menstrual cycle.
Texting is starting to come into play in mobile health care. While an estimated 80% of cellphone users send and receive text messages, 9% are getting text updates about health or medical issues. Fox says it’s often in the form of a reminder. For example, a melanoma survivor might be more likely to remember to use sunscreen if the message comes via text, along with the daily weather outlook.
Do you use a mobile app to search for health info or track your fitness? Let us know in the comments.