Despite the growing popularity of wearable health care devices (from fitness trackes such as Fitbit to smartwatches such as Apple Watch and more sophisticated devices that can collect information on metrics such as blood pressure, glucose levels, and oxygen levels), we have a limited understanding about the actual use and key factors affecting the use of these devices by US adults.
The main objective of this study was to examine the use of wearable health care devices and the key predictors of wearable use by US adults.
Using a national survey of 4551 respondents, we examined the usage patterns of wearable health care devices (use of wearables, frequency of their use, and willingness to share health data from a wearable with a provider) and a set of predictors that pertain to personal demographics (age, gender, race, education, marital status, and household income), individual health (general health, presence of chronic conditions, weight perceptions, frequency of provider visits, and attitude towards exercise), and technology self-efficacy using logistic regression analysis.
About 30% (1266/4551) of US adults use wearable health care devices. Among the users, nearly half (47.33%) use the devices every day, with a majority (82.38% weighted) willing to share the health data from wearables with their care providers. Women (16.25%), White individuals (19.74%), adults aged 18-50 years (19.52%), those with some level of college education or college graduates (25.60%), and those with annual household incomes greater than US $75,000 (17.66%) were most likely to report using wearable health care devices. We found that the use of wearables declines with age: Adults aged >50 years were less likely to use wearables compared to those aged 18-34 years (odds ratios [OR] 0.46-0.57). Women (OR 1.26, 95% CI 0.96-1.65), White individuals (OR 1.65, 95% CI 0.97-2.79), college graduates (OR 1.05, 95% CI 0.31-3.51), and those with annual household incomes greater than US $75,000 (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.39-4.86) were more likely to use wearables. US adults who reported feeling healthier (OR 1.17, 95% CI 0.98-1.39), were overweight (OR 1.16, 95% CI 1.06-1.27), enjoyed exercise (OR 1.23, 95% CI 1.06-1.43), and reported higher levels of technology self-efficacy (OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.21-1.46) were more likely to adopt and use wearables for tracking or monitoring their health.
The potential of wearable health care devices is under-realized, with less than one-third of US adults actively using these devices. With only younger, healthier, wealthier, more educated, technoliterate adults using wearables, other groups have been left behind. More concentrated efforts by clinicians, device makers, and health care policy makers are needed to bridge this divide and improve the use of wearable devices among larger sections of American society.