A new survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project shows 69% of U.S. adults track some sort of health indicator for themselves or a loved one, such as exercise routine, weight, diet, blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches or sleep patterns.
With the proliferation of fitness tracking devices, you might be surprised to know that at least in this survey, only 21% of the respondents said they used a gadget, app or website to track this information. Nearly half of those surveyed (49%) said they keep this information in their heads. Thirty-four percent say they track the data on paper, like in a notebook or journal.
Respondents were allowed to submit multiple answers to that question, but overall, 50% of people who track their health keep notes in some organized way, either on paper or with a gadget.
Susannah Fox, associate director of digital strategy at Pew Research, tells Mashable this is the first national study measuring health tracking.
"We found good old pencil and paper was pretty dominant," she said, adding that "technology did not play a big role."
"That presents a challenge to tech developers who might want to convert these people who are not using technology," she says. The hurdle will be to create something as easy as keeping track of health and fitness in one's head, or on pen and paper, while making it irresistible, Fox says.
The Pew survey also shed light on how people with chronic conditions use trackers.
The Pew survey also shed light on how people with chronic conditions use trackers. It found that people living with one or more chronic conditions are significantly more likely to track health indicators. This likelihood increases among those living with more than one condition. This group is also more likely than others to monitor their health with pencil and paper. It's interesting to note that people in this group have chronic conditions like diabetes, that require tracking.
So what can developers take from this information?
"Let's really look at the people who are facing some serious chronic conditions," Fox says. "And (ask), what are the opportunities for bringing new technologies to market that specifically help that population?"
Ernesto Ramirez, community organizer for Quantified Self, a community of people using self tracking devices to better understand who they are, tells Mashable that 21% is still a good number of people possibly using a digital tracking tool, considering that digital fitness trackers are fairly new.
He also predicts a proliferation of devices to track wellness in the future.
Ramirez says what he found the most interesting about the Pew study is that tracking their habits actually made people take smarter steps toward better health. In fact, 46% of people who tracked their health say that this activity has changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care.
"These trackers make it easier to undertand ourselves, our world and the interaction between the two," Ramirez says. "Ten to 15 years ago, you were stuck with paper and pencil. Now, you can wear a device that syncs to (an) application."
He said he hopes this study sparks further research into how people are engaging with these devices and what they're actually doing with them.
How do you track your health a device, pen and paper, or in your head? Tell us in the comments.