People who need wearable health devices the most use them the least, study finds

Highlights of the study:

  • Age, education, and income are associated with less use of wearable health devices among people with and at risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • The study also found that more than 80% of wearable health device users at risk of cardiovascular disease would be willing to share the health information tracked by the device with their healthcare team to improve their care, regardless of age, education, income, gender or race and ethnicity.

  • Increasing equitable access and promoting wearables as health devices can help improve health and reduce health disparities, according to researchers.

Embargoed until 4am CT/5am ET, Monday, October 31, 2022

(NewMediaWire) — Oct. 31, 2022 — DALLAS People who need wearable health devices like smartwatches and fitness bands may be using them the least. Age, education and income are factors associated with lower use of wearable health devices among people with and at risk for cardiovascular disease, according to preliminary research to be presented at the 2022 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. The meeting, held in person in Chicago and virtually, November 5-7, 2022, is the premier global exchange of the latest scientific advances, research and updates on evidence-based clinical practice in cardiovascular science.

Wearables are electronic devices worn on or near the body that monitor and track health or physical activity. Wearables can help manage cardiovascular health more effectively with features such as physical activity monitoring, heart rate tracking, heart electrical activity tracking, and more.

“We may be able to use artificial intelligence with health information from wearable devices to help people reduce their risk of heart disease,” said lead study author Lovedeep S. Dhingra, MBBS, a postdoctoral fellow in Cardiovascular Data Science (CarDS ) Lab at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “Given these benefits, it is extremely important to understand who is using these devices. In our study, we assessed how many adults with heart disease or at risk of heart disease used wearable devices. We also looked at whether the use of wearable devices is equitable among patients of different age groups, gender, education, income levels, and different racial and ethnic groups.”

Dhingra and colleagues analyzed the health information of 9,303 US adults who responded to the 2019-2020 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). Focusing on participants with or at risk of cardiovascular disease diseases, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, smoking, or obesity (BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2), researchers assessed participants’ responses to a survey question asking if they used a wearable device to track their physical activity or health in the past 12 months. Predicted use of wearable devices was matched by age, gender, race and ethnicity, education level, and income, as well as participants’ willingness to share their wearable device data with healthcare professionals.

“Although the survey did not ask participants about specific types of wearable devices, examples of wearable devices were included to help respondents answer the question of whether or not they had used wearable devices in the previous 12 months. The most common wearables included smartwatches and fitness bands during the survey, although the category continues to expand to include other devices,” said Dhingra.

Although only 9,303 adults responded to the HINTS survey, it was a nationally representative sample, and the researchers were able to use survey-weighted analyzes to estimate the numbers across the country. Their analysis found that people at risk of cardiovascular disease were less likely to use wearable devices. Specifically:

  • An estimated 3.6 million people with cardiovascular disease and 34.4 million people at risk of cardiovascular disease in the US used wearable devices. This means only 18% of all people with cardiovascular disease and 26% of all people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • By comparison, 29% of the US adult population uses wearable devices.

  • Only 12% of people with cardiovascular disease over the age of 65 used wearable devices, although it is estimated that half of all people with cardiovascular disease are over the age of 65.

  • In comparison, 17 percent of people with cardiovascular disease aged 50 to 64 reported using wearable devices, and 33 percent of those in the 18 to 49 age group with diagnosed cardiovascular disease used wearable devices.

  • While 22% of all people at risk of heart disease were 65 or older, only 14% of elderly patients at risk of heart disease used wearable devices.

  • People with cardiovascular disease with an annual household income of $50,000 or more were 4 times more likely to use wearable devices than those with an annual household income of less than $20,000.

  • Education after a college degree (after a bachelor’s degree) was associated with 3.6 times higher wearable device use compared to those who received a lower level of education.

  • More than 80% of people at risk of cardiovascular disease respond that they would be willing to share health information collected by their wearable device to improve their health care. Differences in willingness to share health data across demographic subgroups were nonsignificant (age group, gender, race and ethnicity, education level, and household income).

“We were surprised to find that people with cardiovascular disease were significantly less likely than people without cardiovascular disease to use wearable devices, suggesting that those most likely to benefit from these technologies appear to be less likely to use them,” Dhingra said. “We need to ensure wearables reach the people who need them most by improving equitable access and promoting wearables as health devices to help improve health and reduce health disparities.”

“Wearable devices are effective tools for improving cardiovascular health through enhanced self-monitoring. There is good evidence that when people use wearable devices, they can engage in more physical activity. In addition, the emerging ability to provide objective data to be used during the interaction between clinicians is very promising, as the prescription of physical activity by a health professional often increases follow-up,” said Bethany Barone Gibbs, Ph.D., FAHA , chair of the AHA’s June 2021 scientific statement writing group on physical activity as a critical component of first-line treatment for elevated blood pressure or cholesterol and associate professor and chair in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University’s School of Public Health of West Virginia in Morgantown, West Virginia. “This study highlights important disparities in the use of wearable devices. These disparities in access and use, if addressed, are an opportunity to improve cardiovascular health, particularly among people in high-risk groups or under-resourced communities.”

Among the study’s limitations is that wearable device use was self-reported, and the response rate to the wearable device question was only about one in three of all survey respondents. The higher response rate may more accurately reflect the use of wearable devices in the US

Co-authors are Arya Aminorroaya, MD, MPH; Evangelos Oikonomou, MD, D.Phil.; Arash Agajani Narghesi, MD, MPH; and Rohan Khera, MD, MS Author disclosures are listed in the abstract.

This study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Statements and conclusions from studies presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Association. The Association makes no representations or warranties as to their accuracy or reliability. Abstracts presented at the Association’s scientific meetings are not peer-reviewed, but rather are prepared by independent review panels and considered based on their potential to add to the diversity of scientific questions and views discussed at the meeting. Findings are considered preliminary until published as a full manuscript in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The association receives funding mainly from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing scientific content. Revenue from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers and the Association’s overall financial information are available here.

Additional Resources:

The 2022 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions are a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advances, research, and updates on evidence-based clinical practice in cardiovascular science. The 3-day meeting will feature more than 500 sessions focused on groundbreaking cardiovascular basic, clinical and population science updates, taking place Saturday through Monday, November 5-7, 2022. Thousands of leading physicians, scientists, cardiologists, medical Advanced practice nurses and other healthcare professionals from around the world will gather virtually to participate in basic, clinical, and population science presentations, discussions, and curricula that may shape the future of cardiovascular science and medicine, including prevention and quality improvement. During the three-day meeting, attendees receive exclusive access to more than 4,000 original research presentations and can earn continuing medical education (CME), continuing education (CE), or maintenance of certification (MOC) credits for educational sessions. Participate in the Scientific Sessions 2022 on social media via #AHA22.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations and supported by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for public health and share life-saving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us at heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

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For media inquiries and AHA expert opinion:

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