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Survey: 7-in-10 consumers track health conditions, but only half record progress

WASHINGTON — As many as 7-in-10 U.S. adults track a health indicator for themselves or for a loved one, according to a Pew Research Center study released Monday

The Pew Internet survey found that people living with one or more chronic conditions are no more likely than other U.S. adults to track their weight, diet, or exercise routine. They are, however, significantly more likely to track other health indicators or symptoms and this likelihood increases among those living with more than one condition:

  • 19% of U.S. adults reporting no chronic conditions say they track health indicators or symptoms;
  • 40% of U.S. adults with one condition are trackers;
  • 62% of U.S. adults with two or more conditions are trackers;
  • Nearly half (45%) of U.S. adults are dealing with at least one chronic condition; and
  • Of those who are living with two or more conditions, 78% have high blood pressure and 45% have diabetes — two health conditions more effectively managed when people track their own data.

"And one in three caregivers are also tracking health indicators or symptoms," lead researcher Susannah Fox shared in a video interview with Stanford Medical student Joyce Ho.  

Almost half of people who keep track of their progress noted they do so "in their heads." As many as 34% keep a journal of the health data and 21% employ some form of technology to track the data. 

There were significant differences between the 55% of trackers who record their notes in some organized way, such as on paper or using technology, and the 44% of trackers who keep track solely “in their heads," Fox noted. 

People with more serious health concerns take their tracking more seriously. And people living with multiple chronic conditions are more likely to be methodical about collecting their own health data:

  • 45% of trackers with two or more conditions use paper, like a notebook or journal, compared with 37% of trackers with one condition and 28% of trackers who report no chronic conditions;
  • 22% of trackers with two or more conditions say they use a medical device, like a glucometer, compared with 7% of trackers with one condition and 2% of trackers who report no chronic conditions; and
  • At the same time, many trackers living with chronic conditions say they keep the data “in their heads” — 37% of trackers with two or more conditions say they keep their progress notes “in their heads,” as do 48% of trackers with one condition and 54% of trackers who report no chronic conditions.

Half of all trackers update their records or notes only occasionally and most do not share the data with anyone else. One-third of trackers did share records and notes with another person or group, either online or offline. Of those, 52% share with a clinician.

Not surprisingly, trackers who do not take formal notes are less likely than others to say they update their records on a regular basis or to share their progress with someone else.

And trackers with chronic conditions were significantly more likely to report that these activities had an impact on their health. Caregivers and trackers who had experienced a recent, significant health change were more likely than other groups to report an impact. Trackers who keep formal records, such as on paper or using technology, were also more likely than others to report an impact.


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