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Press release
Press|Financial Services|Technology|Global Study|Connected Consumer|United States|English

Taking breaks from technology is harder for younger consumers, high-income households in the US

New York, NY, 27.06.2017

Nearly one in three people in the US say it is difficult to walk away from smartphones, TVs, and tablets

According to just-released GfK research, nearly one-third of US consumers (31%) firmly agree1 that they “find it difficult to take a break from technology … even when I know I should.” This is slightly below the international average, across 17 countries measured, of 34%.

By comparison, roughly two in ten (22%) in the US firmly disagree with that statement – above the global figure of 16%.

In the US, gender seems to make little difference in consumers’ struggle to unplug from their devices; 31% of women and 32% of men agree that they find it difficult to take a break from technology. But women are slightly more likely (23% versus 20%) to disagree with the “taking tech breaks” statement. 

Internationally, GfK’s findings were similar to those in the US, with the averages across 17 nations showing nearly equal percentages for men and women. Major age and income groups do show distinct differences, however, in susceptibility to being “always on.”

Younger age groups struggle most with technology attachment

US consumers under age 40 have the greatest struggle with disconnecting from their devices. Over four in ten (43%) of those 30 to 39 years old say they have trouble taking tech breaks; the 20-to-29 and 15-to-19 age groups are not far behind, at 42% and 41% respectively.

On the other hand, the 60-plus age group in the US has the highest percentage (44%) of respondents who firmly disagree that it is difficult to take a break from technology. Only 12% of this segment say they have trouble disconnecting from their smartphones, PCs, or TVs.  

Globally, teenagers (15 to 19 years old) are the most likely to struggle with technology attachment, with just under half (44%) firmly saying they find it difficult to take a tech break, even when they know they should. This dips to 41% for those in their twenties and to 38% for those in their thirties. The global figures then fall significantly for older age groups – standing at 29% of those in their forties, 23% for those in their fifties and 15% for those aged 60 and over.

Internationally, the 50-59 and 60+ age groups are the tipping point, where there are higher percentages who firmly indicate they have no problem turning off their technology, than the percentages saying they struggle to take a break.

High-income households have most trouble taking tech breaks

US consumers in high-income households (the top 25%, in terms of household earnings) struggle with disconnecting digitally; 39% in this group firmly agree that it is difficult to take a break from their devices, while only 16% disagree – a gap of 23 percentage points. By comparison, the gap for low-income homes (the lowest-earning 25%) is just 5 points – 30% agree strongly that it is hard to take a technology break, while 25% disagree.

Across the 17 countries globally, almost four in ten (39%) people living in high-income households find it difficult to take a break from technology, even when they know they should, while 11% find it easy – a gap of 28 points. This contrasts to those in low-income households, where 30% find it difficult, while 20% find it easy – a gap of only 10 percentage points.

A complimentary report showing findings by gender, age and income for each of the 17 countries is available here: www.gfk.com/global-studies/global-study-overview/

About the study

GfK asked over 22,000 consumers (aged 15 or over) online in 17 countries how strongly they agree or disagree with the statement, “I find it difficult to take a break from technology (my mobile device, computer, the TV, etc.), even when I know I should”

1 Data presented in this release represents the bottom 2 boxes (disagreement) and top 2 boxes (agreement) from on a 7-point scale where “1” means “don’t agree at all”, and “7” means “agree completely”. 

Fieldwork was completed in summer 2016. Data are weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the online population aged 15+ in each market. The global average given in this release is weighted based on the size of each country proportional to the other countries. Countries covered are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Spain, UK and USA.  

About GfK

GfK is the trusted source of relevant market and consumer information that enables its clients to make smarter decisions. More than 13,000 market research experts combine their passion with GfK’s long-standing data science experience. This allows GfK to deliver vital global insights matched with local market intelligence from more than 100 countries. By using innovative technologies and data sciences, GfK turns big data into smart data, enabling its clients to improve their competitive edge and enrich consumers’ experiences and choices.

For more information, please visit www.gfk.com
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