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People With Money Benefit Most From Health Apps, Wearables

December 21, 2021

January 2022

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New research looking at the benefits of health apps and wearable devices shows that they help people of different socioeconomic statuses differently. Specifically, these digital tools are more likely to encourage increased physical activity in people with more money as opposed to those with less.

Interventions like text messages, web-based prompts, and pedometers didn’t work for people with low socioeconomic status, even if they worked well for wealthier people. This was true for every intervention type, which raises the concern that these tools may widen already existing health gaps between people in high and low socioeconomic groups.

One theory about these findings is that people of lower socioeconomic status often have lower electronic health literacy and so are less able to use technology or apply physical activity tools to improve their health. Another potential reason for the disparity might be that people who are less wealthy may have less time to exercise.

The analysis, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, reviewed digital tools aimed at boosting physical activity, but the study authors concluded that the same results would likely be true for programs designed to change other types of health behaviors. They also noted that with increasing digitization in health care – for example, electronic health records, tracking systems for patient behaviors, and telemedicine – it will be critical to understand the discrepancies between people in different socioeconomic groups. Researchers and public health advocates will have a big role to play in elucidating the underlying reasons for these discrepancies.

Source: The Verge, November 16, 2021.

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