Mobile apps make it possible to track everything from exercise and calories to blood pressure and blood sugar, and use the information to stay on target with health goals or manage chronic disease.
But a new survey shows that most people over 50 don’t use such apps – and those who could get the most help from them are less likely to actually use them.
Less than half (44%) of people aged 50 to 80 have ever used a health-related app on their smartphone, wearable device or tablet, according to new findings from the National Healthy Aging Survey.
Those who say they are in poor health and those with lower income or education levels were much less likely to have ever used such apps. Half of those who have never used a health app or who have stopped using them said they were not interested in using them.
The percentage of older adults who currently use at least one app is even lower, at 28%. A third of this group use an app to track exercise, while smaller percentages use apps to track sleep, weight, nutrition, blood pressure, to guide meditation, or to manage mental health and mood. stress. A quarter of current users have shared information from their apps with their healthcare providers.
And among seniors with diabetes, only 28% use an app on their device to log their blood sugar and 14% use an app to log their medications. But almost half of older people with diabetes say they would be interested in using an app in both ways.
The poll is based at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Health Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, UM’s academic medical center.
“Now that most older adults have at least one mobile device, health-related apps may provide an opportunity to support their health-related behaviors, manage their conditions, and improve health outcomes,” said Pearl Lee, MD, MS, Michigan geriatrician. Doctor who worked on the survey report.
Lee and co-authors James Aikens, Ph.D., and Caroline Richardson, MD, both of UM’s Department of Family Medicine, say the potential is especially great for older people with diabetes.
The survey also included questions about continuous blood glucose monitors, which people with diabetes can wear on their skin to monitor their long-term blood sugar levels. These monitors can connect to mobile devices to provide readings to an app.
Only 11% of survey respondents with type 2 diabetes said they currently use a CGM, although 68% had heard of such devices and more than half said they would potentially be interested in using one. a.
AARP research found a surge in the number of older adults buying and using technology during the pandemic, and many are interested in using technology to track health metrics. With more people over the age of 50 owning and using technology, we may start to see an increase in the number of older adults using apps to monitor their health.”
Indira Venkat, Vice President, Consumer Insights at AARP
Disparities in app usage
Recent data shows that 83% of people aged 50-64 and 61% of people over 65 own a smartphone, and just under half of people in each age group own a tablet. This is up from the 34% of 50-64 year olds and 13% of over 65 year olds who owned a smartphone a decade ago, and even lower percentages who owned tablets then.
Despite this increase, the survey highlights disparities in the use of mobile health apps by income and education level, as well as age. It also shows that lack of awareness or distrust of health app security can hold many older people back.
Poll director Preeti Malani, MD, an infectious disease physician trained in geriatrics at Michigan Medicine, notes that seniors with incomes above $100,000 were almost three times more likely than those with incomes below $30,000 to use health apps, at 43% versus 15%. College graduates were more than twice as likely to use health apps as those who hadn’t finished high school.
“People who describe their health as fair or poor — the people who might need the kind of tracking, support and insights a good health app can provide the most — were significantly less likely to use such apps than those who say they are in excellent, very good, or good health,” Malani notes. “Healthcare providers should consider discussing the use of health apps with their patients, as a third of them said they had never thought of using one.”
The survey report is based on the results of a nationally representative survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the IHPI, and administered online and by telephone in August 2021 among 2,110 seniors from 50 to 80 years old. The sample was then weighted to reflect the US population.
Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan