According to a new report from Parks Associates, ownership of digital health and wellness devices in the United States -- especially fitness trackers -- is steadily climbing. And, the report contends, reports of widespread abandonment of fitness trackers are greatly exaggerated.
Parks spoke with 5,000 US broadband households and found that 33 percent have adopted a digital health technology, up from 26 percent in 2014. Connected fitness trackers in particular had a 10 percent market penetration in 2015, while smartwatches, still a relatively new category, hit 4 percent.
"Digital fitness tracker is the fastest growing category in the connected health device market, with Fitbit the clear leader with more than 50 percent market share, and its early 2015 acquisition of FitStar will help the company expand its wellness services," Harry Wang, director of mobile and health products research at Parks said in a statement.
A growing concern about fitness trackers is that people buy them but don't use them, or only use them for a limited time. Wang says Parks' data shows that concern is overblown.
"Attrition of fitness tracker usage, a closely watched metric, is not as bad as the industry once perceived, at least not among existing users," Wang added. "Our study finds that only 12 percent of digital fitness tracker owners have cut back usage from at least 1 to 3 times per week to less than once a week. Overall, three-fourths of digital fitness tracker owners use the device at least 1 to 3 times per week, and Fitbit has the most active users: 68 percent of Fitbit owners use the device daily, the highest among all brands."
Although the largest group of owners is still 25 to 44-year-olds, seniors were surprisingly common adopters. They lagged just 2 percent behind the national average: 31 percent versus a 33 percent average, up from 24 percent last year.
"Americans overall have begun to tap technology for health and care management, but they are under-informed about wellness benefits offered by their health insurers and overly optimistic about their health," Wang added. "Our study shows that 40 percent of insured consumers are not aware of any wellness benefits from their health insurers, and although more than 60 percent of consumers have at least one chronic condition, only 20 percent are concerned about it. Healthcare providers and wellness app developers could tap into these market opportunities by boosting educational efforts, enlisting collaboration from other types of care providers, and pushing for greater service integration with current technologies."
Earlier this year, Parks released another report on smartwatches and fitness trackers, finding that 5 percent of US broadband households use a smart watch that offers health and fitness tracking features, and 8 percent use a digital pedometer or activity tracker.