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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2017 Jun 5;5(6):e77. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.7628.

Health App Possession Among Smartphone or Tablet Owners in Hong Kong: Population-Based Survey.

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School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China (Hong Kong).
School of Nursing, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China (Hong Kong).
Center for Community-Based Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Cambridge, MA, United States.



Health apps are increasingly used with important implications for health. Hong Kong is one of the most technologically advanced and connected cities-smartphone ownership and Internet access rates are among the highest in the world.


We investigated the prevalence of health app possession and related sociodemographic factors and health behaviors among smartphone or tablet owners in Hong Kong.


A territory-wide population-based dual (landline and mobile) telephone survey was conducted in 2016. Respondents were asked whether they had health-related apps on their smartphones or tablets and what functions were available on the apps (eg, tracking physical activity and logging health records). Logistic regression was used to calculate the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) and 95% CI of health app possession for different demographic characteristics, socioeconomic position (education, employment, and income), health behaviors (smoking, alcohol, and physical activity) and health (body mass index and chronic diseases).


Of the 4129 smartphone or tablet owners (81.28%, 4129/5080 respondents), 995 (24.10%) had a health app. Tracking physical activity (67.0% of 995) and logging health records (43.0% of 995) were the most common functions of the health apps. Overall, younger age, higher education, and household income were associated with having health apps (all P<.001). Compared with physical inactivity, engaging in moderate physical activity ≥1 day/week was associated with having health apps (aOR 1.45 [95% CI 1.20-1.75] for 1-3 days/week, and aOR 1.32 [95% CI 1.07-1.62] for ≥4 days/week). Having a history of chronic diseases was associated with having health apps (aOR 1.36 [95% CI 1.11-1.68]).


We have shown a lower prevalence of use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in respondents with lower education and income in the most developed Chinese city. This could be seen as a confirmation of the "Inverse information law," which suggests that those most in need have less use of services and hence receive less benefits from advancements in medicine and health related ICTs.


Chinese; apps; smartphone

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