New research suggests using mobile health applications helps older adults manage their health.
The researchers analyzed data from a mail-in survey of 1,864 smartphone and tablet users, age 18 to 65 and better, who had been diagnosed with at least one chronic condition. Participants responded to questions about their device use in relation to health-promoting behaviors. Just under half (46%) had a mobile health application (mHealth app) installed on their device. Only about 42% of the full sample were ages 18 to 49, but this age group made up more than half (53%) of mHealth users. This could reflect a barrier to mHealth adoption among older adults, such as privacy and security concerns or lower tech-savviness.
Overall, it was clear that having an mHealth app helped respondents make the most of their smart device—mHealth users were much more likely than non-users to report that their device helped in tracking the progress of a health-related goal, making a decision about treatment, and having discussions with their doctor. However, there was a sort of digital divide between younger and older adults. Among the full sample of device users, those age 65 and better were less likely than younger people to use their device for any of the three health-promoting behaviors. This was not the case among only the mHealth users; these older adults were just as likely as any other age group to use their device for health-promoting behaviors.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear if non-users of mHealth apps utilized other ways to engage in health-promoting behaviors. It is also hard to explain the findings related to age. It could be that older adults who are more comfortable using apps are the ones who have an mHealth app on their device. Or it could mean that mHealth apps actually make it easier for older adults to use their smart device for health-promoting behaviors. In either case, it appears adults of all ages who have a chronic condition have found mHealth apps useful.
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