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iHealth: How Consumers are Using Tech to Stay Healthy

4 minute read | April 2014

It’s no secret that technology has taken over nearly every aspect of our lives: We live on our smartphones, read books on e-readers, share deep thoughts on Twitter, broadcast snapshots across Instagram and plan projects on Pinterest. But tech isn’t just keeping us connected and entertained. In particular, the use of the Internet and technology are increasingly starting to catch on with today’s health-conscious consumers. And in looking at the results of recent Nielsen research, nearly three-fourths of Americans could be prime customers.

According to Nielsen’s Health and Wellness survey, more than 70 percent of Americans say they’re actively working to become healthier or maintain their current health. What’s motivating them? Mainly family and friends (49%), followed by media such as news reports or television shows (32%). Americans also said they pay attention to packaging claims (26%) and in-store signage and brochures (22%).

Yet despite respondents’ responses, few are engaging with the digital realm to help reach their health goals. In fact, the study found that only 19 percent of consumers said blogs and social media sites influence their healthy product choices, and only 17 percent were influenced by brand or company websites.


Although awareness of wearable technology, such as fitness bands for self-monitoring and mHealth (mobile health) devices for tracking and monitoring medical conditions is high among consumers (70%), only 15 percent of Americans are currently using them, according to Nielsen’s recent Connected Life Report. Of the consumers who are aware of wearable tech, 61 percent use fitness bands and 17 percent use mHealth devices such as pedometers.

When looking at the entire population, the Health and Wellness survey found that only 15 percent use a calorie-tracking website or mobile app, and 13 percent said they use fitness video games on their phones, mobile devices, tablets, game consoles or tablets to help stay healthy.


So how are consumers learning about these devices and where are they purchasing them? Before buying their devices, 48 percent of fitness band owners and 54 percent of health device owners searched for information online. Recommendations from family and friends were also top sources of information (36% of fitness band owners, 25% of mHealth device owners), as well as in-store browsing (30%, respectively). Manufacturers of fitness bands in particular should take note of the sway that a hands-on experience can provide, as consumers purchased 37 percent of fitness bands in-store, compared with 33 percent online through the brand’s website and 27 percent online through a third party.

And consumers aren’t just buying these devices because they want to be part of the latest fad. Once purchased, fitness band owners say they use their devices often: two-thirds (62%) use their device daily, with 29 percent using their device several times a day. Top activities among fitness band owners include tracking mileage and calories burned (62% of fitness band owners, respectively) and tracking overall activity (61%). About half use their fitness band to monitor their heart rate.

Health-conscious consumers are also looking to smartphone apps to keep track of their wellbeing. In January 2014, 45.8 million U.S. smartphone owners used a fitness and health app, an 18 percent increase from 39 million users during the same month a year ago.


While consumers say price is a major concern when purchasing any wearable tech, 28 percent of fitness band users say their device was worth the price. Privacy and lack of unique features are the next-strongest concerns when it comes to wearables overall, with nearly three in 10 people indicating that such devices will make it too easy for others to access personal information and 28 percent feeling that they don’t do anything consumers can’t already do on a device they already own. Seventeen percent said they would consider purchasing wearable technology when it drops to a reasonable price and roughly one in 10 (9%) said they would consider it if “bugs” have been worked out.


The Nielsen Health and Wellness study is an online survey of 471 respondents and was fielded in February 2014.

Insights from Nielsen’s Connected Life Report were gathered from general population survey of adults 18 years or older that consisted of 3,956 respondents who are either current users or non-users with high interest in Connected Life technologies. Respondents completed an online, self-administered survey early November 2013. The sample includes 2,313 respondents interested in connected-wearable technology.

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