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US Families Abandoning the 'Home Phone'

Growth of Cell Phone-Only Homes Gets the CDC's Attention


A Vanishing US Family Icon: The Home Phone

A Vanishing US Family Icon: The Home Phone

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Updated December 25, 2010
The hard-wired "home phone," long an iconic feature of American family life, is vanishing as the number of U.S. homes served only by wireless cellular telephones grows, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Results from the January-June 2010 edition of the CDC's National Health Interview Survey show that more than one of every four American homes (26.6%) had only cell phones during the first half of 2010, a 2.1% increase since December 2009.

In addition, members of nearly one out of six American households (15.9%) receive and make almost all of their calls on cell phones, despite still having a wired landline phone, according to the survey.

What Does this Have to Do With Health and Disease?

So what, you may be wondering, does exclusive use of cell phones in American homes have to do with health and diseases? According to the CDC, many of the government's nationwide health surveys are conducted by calling random home telephone numbers. Until recently, these surveys failed to include wireless phone numbers. As long as the number of wireless-only homes was not significant - which it now is - the exclusion of cell phone numbers did not significantly skew the survey results. Now, despite what the CDC calls "operational challenges," most major health research surveys now encompass wireless phone numbers.

So what sort of health-related nuggets has the CDC uncovered since it began calling cell phones? A few results from the CDC's survey include:
  • Adults living in wireless-only homes are "substantially" more likely to consume five or more alcoholic drinks in a single day than adults in homes served by landline phones. In addition, wireless-only adults are more likely to be smokers than those in landline households.
  • On a more positive note, wireless-only adults were more likely to report that their health status was excellent or very good, more likely to engage in regular leisure-time physical activity, and less likely to have ever been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Adults under 65 living in wireless-only homes are twice as likely to NOT have health insurance as those living in landline homes.
  • Possibly related to their lack of insurance, wireless-only adults were more likely to have failed to obtain needed health care services due to cost considerations. Additionally, wireless-only adults are less likely to get flu shots.
  • Adults in wireless-only homes are about 12% more likely than adults in landline homes to have ever been tested for the HIV virus.
The CDC's January-June 2010 National Health Interview Survey also reports other demographic characteristics of wireless-only adults, including age and gender, home ownership and family structure, and geographic location.
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