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Many of the people who would benefit the most from wearables do not use them, according to a research study highlighted by the American Heart Association.

Several of the findings of the study are quite obvious, but they do raise some interesting questions about how wearables are marketed and used.

The study collated responses from 9303 US adults, whose answers were weighted to make the results more closely representative of the population of the US. It finds that while an estimated 29% of the population uses some form of wearable, only 12% those aged 65 and above with cardiovascular disease use one.

That figure increases to 17% for those with cardiovascular disease aged 50 to 64, and to 18% when expanded to cover all people will the disease. The findings also suggest 26% of those at risk of cardiovascular disease use a wearable — again, lower than the overall average of 29%.

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“We were surprised to find that people with cardiovascular disease were notably less likely than people without cardiovascular disease to use wearable devices, which suggests those who are most likely to benefit from these technologies appear to be less likely to use them,” says Lovedeep Dhingra, research fellow at Yale School of Medicine’s Cardiovascular Data Science lab.

Physical inactivity can be a contributing factor in cardiovascular disease. But the question to ask here is whether the introduction of a wearable to someone’s life can actually increase their physical activity longer term.

The group’s impetus for the survey was a precursor to further work on using information taken from wearables to improve health outcomes, an idea already undertaken in big studies ran in association with companies like Apple and Fitbit. It is also worth noting that the survey was very small-scale — 9303 respondents is not much.

“We may be able to use artificial intelligence with health information from wearable devices to help people reduce their risk of heart disease,” says Dhingra.

The survey findings are due to be presented at American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022, held from November 5-7 in Chicago.

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