About seven out of 10 people track a health indicator or symptom for themselves or a loved one, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. And, while the majority of people are writing down or recording their stats using technology, more people prefer writing things down than storing their information on a device.
The Pew Research Center's survey, which was released on Jan. 28, was the first to look at measuring health data tracking. Monitoring health stats has been proven to help improve outcomes, especially when it comes to losing weight or managing chronic illness.
The survey involved 3,014 adults who spoke English or Spanish living across the U.S. who were contacted by landline telephones or cell phone.
Forty-nine percent just remembered their statistics in their head, 34 percent said they tracked their information using a notebook or journal and 21 percent used technology including a spreadsheet, website, app or device to monitor their health numbers. The survey allowed for multiple answers, so overall it broke down to 50 percent of people recording their data physically and 44 percent solely using their memory.
The most common health indicator people were interested in keeping tabs on was weight, diet or exercise routine, with sixty percent of those surveyed saying that they did so. About one-third of people focused on tracking specific symptoms like blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches or sleep patterns.
Another 12 percent tracked the information for another person.
The survey also showed that many people may be benefiting from health tracking. Forty-six percent said that looking at their stats has encouraged them to change the way they take care of themselves or someone else. Four out of 10 said the stats led to them ask new questions to their doctor or get a second opinion, and 34 percent said that their monitoring influenced how they treated an illness or condition.
"We have a population that is aging, that is overweight and dealing with multiple chronic conditions. And we have a population that is carrying around a lot of mobile technology," Susannah Fox, lead author of the survey report, told USA Today.
This may spurn on the tech industry to help develop more ways to easily record health data. Already more than 500 companies were developing new health management tools as of Fall 2012, the New York Times reports, marking a 35 percent increase from January 2012. There are currently 13,000 health and fitness apps available on the market.
James Beckerman, a cardiologist from Portland, Ore., explained to USA Today that a "beautifully handwritten blood pressure diary" can easily be trashed, whereas electronic records are easier to save and share.
However, experts warn it may take a lot of convincing to get traditional journal keepers to switch to apps.
"We found good old pencil and paper was pretty dominant," Fox said in a separate interview with Mashable.
"That presents a challenge to tech developers who might want to convert these people who are not using technology," she added.