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Pew: 21% of Americans use a smartwatch or fitness tracker

The latest research from the Pew Research Center says that one in five American adults regularly use a fitness tracker or smartwatch of some kind.

That’s the headline figure, but as you might imagine uptake is sharply divides by income levels. While the number rises to 31% of Americans living in households with incomes of $75,000 or more per year, it drops to just 12% for those on £30,000 or less.

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In all, 4272 adults were surveyed about their wearable habits, and women (25%) were a bit more likely to use them regularly than men (18%). Education level was another big divider with just 15% of those with high school education adopting wearables, compared to 27% of those with a college education or higher. 

The survey then goes on to ask whether American wearable owners would be happy with their data being used for heart disease research, and that turned out to be a more divisive question.

In all, 41% reckon this usage of wearable data is acceptable, with 22% unsure. Younger people are generally happier with this, with 47% of 18-49 year olds deeming it acceptable to just 35% of over 50s. 

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Perhaps tellingly, though, the figure hits a high of 53% approval when just fitness tracker owners are asked the question. That could show a degree of acquiescence, with buyers essentially voting with their wallets that this kind of data usage is acceptable. On the flip side, when non-owners are asked, it’s an even split with 37% saying it’s unacceptable to 38% saying acceptable.

The survey is pretty broad, however, and doesn’t subdivide by device type in any way. It would be interesting to see if owners of specific brands care more about their data privacy than others. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how attitudes change over the next few years as devices become ever more sophisticated.

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