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General Health : Environment Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


16% American homes use only wireless phones
By CDC
May 27, 2008 - 2:58:43 PM

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Preliminary results from the July-December 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that nearly one out of every six American homes (15.8%) had only wireless telephones during the second half of 2007. In addition, more than one out of every eight American homes (13.1%) received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones despite having a landline telephone in the home. This report presents the most up-to-date estimates available from the federal government concerning the size and characteristics of these populations.

Telephone Status

In the last 6 months of 2007, nearly one out of every six households (15.8%) did not have a landline telephone, but did have at least one wireless telephone (Table 1). Approximately 14.5% of all adults-more than 32 million adults-lived in households with only wireless telephones; 14.4% of all children-more than 10 million children-lived in households with only wireless telephones.

The percentage of adults living in wireless-only households has been steadily increasing (see Figure). During the last 6 months of 2007, more than one out of every seven adults lived in wireless-only households. One year before that (that is, during the last 6 months of 2006), fewer than one out of every eight adults lived in wireless-only households. And 2 years before that (that is, during the last 6 months of 2004), only 1 out of every 18 adults lived in wireless-only households.

The percentage of adults and the percentage of children living without any telephone service have remained relatively unchanged over the past 3 years. Approximately 2.2% of households had no telephone service (neither wireless nor landline). Approximately 4 million adults (1.9%) and 1.5 million children (2.1%) lived in these households.
 
Demographic Differences

The percentage of U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized adults living in wireless-only households is shown by selected demographic characteristics and by survey time period in Table 2. For the period July through December 2007:

    *      More than one-half of all adults living with unrelated roommates (56.9%) lived in households with only wireless telephones. This is the highest prevalence rate among the population subgroups examined.
    *      Adults renting their home (30.9%) were more likely than adults owning their home (7.3%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
    *      More than one in three adults aged 25-29 years (34.5%) lived in households with only wireless telephones. Nearly 31% of adults aged 18-24 years lived in households with only wireless telephones.
    *      As age increased, the percentage of adults living in households with only wireless telephones decreased: 15.5% for adults aged 30-44 years; 8.0% for adults aged 45-64 years; and 2.2% for adults aged 65 years and over.
    *      Men (15.9%) were more likely than women (13.2%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
    *      Adults living in poverty (27.4%) were more likely than higher income adults to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
    *      Adults living in the South (17.1%) and Midwest (15.3%) were more likely than adults living in the Northeast (10.0%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
    *      Non-Hispanic white adults (12.9%) were less likely than Hispanic adults (19.3%) or non-Hispanic black adults (18.3%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.

Wireless-Mostly Households

Among households with both landline and cellular telephones, 22.3% received all or almost all calls on the cellular telephones, based on data for the period July through December 2007. These wireless-mostly households make up 13.1% of all households. Both of these estimates of the size of the wireless-mostly household population have increased since the first 6 months of 2007. During the first 6 months of 2007, the estimates were 20.5% and 12.1%, respectively. (These increases are statistically significant at the 0.10 level but not at the 0.05 level.)

Approximately 31 million adults (14.0%) lived in wireless-mostly households during the last 6 months of 2007, an increase from 28 million (12.6%) during the first 6 months of 2007. Table 3 presents the percentage of adults living in wireless-mostly households by selected demographic characteristics and by survey time period. For the period July through December 2007:

    *      Non-Hispanic Asian adults (20.3%) were more likely than Hispanic adults (14.5%), non-Hispanic white adults (13.2%), or non-Hispanic black adults (15.1%) to be living in wireless-mostly households.
    *      Adults with college degrees (16.2%) were more likely to be living in wireless-mostly households than were high school graduates (12.7%) or adults with less education (8.7%).
    *      Adults living in poverty (8.6%) and adults living near poverty (11.4%) were less likely than higher income adults (15.9%) to be living in wireless-mostly households.
    *      Adults living in metropolitan areas (14.7%) were more likely to be living in wireless-mostly households than were adults living in more rural areas (10.9%).

Selected Health Measures by Household Telephone Status

Most major survey research organizations, including NCHS, do not include wireless telephone numbers when conducting random-digit-dial telephone surveys. Therefore, the inability to reach households with only wireless telephones (or with no telephone service) has potential implications for results from health surveys, political polls, and other research conducted using random-digit-dial telephone surveys. Coverage bias may exist if there are differences between persons with and without landline telephones for the substantive variables of interest.

The NHIS Early Release program updates and releases estimates for 15 key adult health indicators every 3 months. Table 4 presents estimates by household telephone status (landline, wireless-only, or without any telephone service) for all but two of these measures. (“Pneumococcal vaccination” and “personal care needs” were not included because these indicators are limited to adults aged 65 years and over.) For the period July through December 2007:

    *      The prevalence of binge drinking (i.e., having five or more alcoholic drinks in 1 day during the past year) among wireless-only adults (37.3%) was twice as high as the prevalence among adults living in landline households (17.7%). Wireless-only adults were also more likely to be current smokers.
    *      Compared with adults living in landline households, wireless-only adults were more likely to report that their health status was excellent or very good, and they were more likely to engage in regular leisure-time physical activity.
    *      The percentage without health insurance coverage at the time of the interview among wireless-only adults (28.7%) was twice as high as the percentage among adults living in landline households (13.7%).
    *      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 (47.6%) were more likely than adults living in landline households (34.7%) to have ever been tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Conclusions

The potential for bias due to undercoverage remains a real and growing threat to surveys conducted only on landline telephones. For more information about the potential implications for health surveys based on landline telephone interviews, see:

    *      Blumberg SJ, Luke JV. Coverage bias in traditional telephone surveys of low-income and young adults. Public Opinion Quarterly 71:734-749. 2007.
    *      Blumberg SJ, Luke JV, Cynamon ML. Telephone coverage and health survey estimates: Evaluating the need for concern about wireless substitution. American Journal of Public Health 96:926-31. 2006.
    *      Blumberg SJ, Luke JV, Cynamon ML, Frankel MR. Recent trends in household telephone coverage in the United States. In JM Lepkowski et al. (eds.), Advances in Telephone Survey Methodology (pp. 56-86). New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2008.

In addition, this report is the first to demonstrate that the number of adults living in wireless-mostly households in the U.S. is growing and is nearly equal to the number of adults living in wireless-only households. If the prevalence of wireless-mostly households continues to grow, and if adults living in wireless-mostly households rarely (if ever) answer their landline telephones, landline telephone surveys may experience increasing rates of nonresponse.





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