Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Med Internet Res. 2017 Apr 19;19(4):e125. doi: 10.2196/jmir.5604.

Who Uses Mobile Phone Health Apps and Does Use Matter? A Secondary Data Analytics Approach.

Author information

Department of Family Medicine, University of Colorado, Aurora, CO, United States.
School of Communication, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, United Kingdom.
School of Computing & Maths, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, United Kingdom.
Lawson Health Research Institute, Family Medicine, Kinesiology and Cardiology, Western University, London, ON, Canada.
Family Medicine, Public Health Sciences and Community Health, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, United States.



Mobile phone use and the adoption of healthy lifestyle software apps ("health apps") are rapidly proliferating. There is limited information on the users of health apps in terms of their social demographic and health characteristics, intentions to change, and actual health behaviors.


The objectives of our study were to (1) to describe the sociodemographic characteristics associated with health app use in a recent US nationally representative sample; (2) to assess the attitudinal and behavioral predictors of the use of health apps for health promotion; and (3) to examine the association between the use of health-related apps and meeting the recommended guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity.


Data on users of mobile devices and health apps were analyzed from the National Cancer Institute's 2015 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), which was designed to provide nationally representative estimates for health information in the United States and is publicly available on the Internet. We used multivariable logistic regression models to assess sociodemographic predictors of mobile device and health app use and examine the associations between app use, intentions to change behavior, and actual behavioral change for fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, and weight loss.


From the 3677 total HINTS respondents, older individuals (45-64 years, odds ratio, OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.47-68; 65+ years, OR 0.19, 95% CI 0.14-0.24), males (OR 0.80, 95% CI 0.66-0.94), and having degree (OR 2.83, 95% CI 2.18-3.70) or less than high school education (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.24-0.72) were all significantly associated with a reduced likelihood of having adopted health apps. Similarly, both age and education were significant variables for predicting whether a person had adopted a mobile device, especially if that person was a college graduate (OR 3.30). Individuals with apps were significantly more likely to report intentions to improve fruit (63.8% with apps vs 58.5% without apps, P=.01) and vegetable (74.9% vs 64.3%, P<.01) consumption, physical activity (83.0% vs 65.4%, P<.01), and weight loss (83.4% vs 71.8%, P<.01). Individuals with apps were also more likely to meet recommendations for physical activity compared with those without a device or health apps (56.2% with apps vs 47.8% without apps, P<.01).


The main users of health apps were individuals who were younger, had more education, reported excellent health, and had a higher income. Although differences persist for gender, age, and educational attainment, many individual sociodemographic factors are becoming less potent in influencing engagement with mobile devices and health app use. App use was associated with intentions to change diet and physical activity and meeting physical activity recommendations.


Internet; cell phone; health behavior; health promotion; mobile applications; smartphone

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for JMIR Publications Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center