US Survey Shows Health Differences in Wireless-Only Households

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Preliminary results from the July December 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that the number of American homes with only wireless telephones continues to grow.

Two in every five American homes (41.0%) had only wireless telephones during the second half of 2013 -- an increase of 1.6 percentage points since the first half of 2013 and 2.8 percentage points since the second half of 2012.

However, these increases are smaller than those observed in previous years.

Approximately 39.1% of all adults (about 93 million adults) lived in households with only wireless telephones; 47.1% of all children (nearly 35 million children) lived in households with only wireless telephones.

The percentages of adults and children living in wireless-only households has also been increasing over time, although neither the 1.1- percentage-point increase for adults from the first 6 months through the second 6 months of 2013 nor the 1.7-percentage- point increase for children over the same period was statistically significant.

The percentages of adults and children living without any telephone service have remained relatively unchanged over the past 3 years.

The survey is carried out b the NHIS due to suspected biases in health reporting when surveys are carried out over landlines alone. Calling mobiles for survey purposes is generally forbidden.

The health impacts that the difference between wireless and wireless households are stark.

The prevalence of having five or more alcoholic drinks in 1 day during the past year among wireless-only adults (29%) was substantially higher than the prevalence among adults living in landline households (17.2%). Wireless-only adults were also more likely to be current smokers than were adults living in landline households.

The percentage without health insurance coverage at the time of interview among wireless-only adults under age 65 (25.2%) was greater than the percentage among adults in that age group living in landline households (14.7%).

Compared with adults living in landline households, wireless-only adults were more likely to have experienced financial barriers to obtaining needed health care, and they were less likely to have a usual place to go for medical care. Wireless- only adults were also less likely to have received an influenza vaccination during the previous year.

Wireless-only adults (45.1%) were more likely than adults living in landline households (32.3%) to have ever been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.

The NHIS warned that the potential for bias due to undercoverage remains a real threat to surveys conducted only on landline telephones.

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