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The Centers for Disease Control released a study that showed some things many of us would already have supposed to be true. For the first time ever, a majority of U.S. homes are cellphone-only. Ten years ago, nine of ten U.S. households had a landline, and now fewer than half do.

Most of us would expect the study to find the following things about wireless-only people:

  • More younger people than older
  • More single than married
  • More apartment renters than home owners
  • More city dwellers than suburbanites

Given the ubiquitousness of smartphones and the general replacement of analog devices by digital ones, those four findings are not surprising.

Would you have expected wireless-only adults are more likely to:

  • Drink heavily?
  • Smoke?
  • Drive without using seatbelts?
  • Be uninsured?

As a researcher, I am intrigued by how these four things share a single theme: they involve behaviors that lead to negative consequences. Study author Stephen J Blumberg says “There is certainly something about giving up a landline that appeals to the same people who engage in risky behaviors.”

Wait a minute. Why is a health organization studying wireless?

The CDC surveys many thousands of people every year. A dozen years ago they realized their telephone-based surveys were missing the ever-growing segment of the population without a landline phone. So they switched to in-person, face-to-face interviews, which include people with every type of phone configuration: landline-only, wireless-only, both land and wireless, and no service at all.

We dug even deeper into the study and found these two items, also not readily apparent.

  • Hispanics are more likely to be wireless-only than Asians, blacks, and whites.
  • Lower-income groups, including those living in poverty, are more like to be wireless-only than higher income groups.

Is it possible all of these things are related?

Not only possible, but likely, although in ways we do not know. What we cannot infer is which of these things cause the others.

Here’s a risky behavior not reported in the study.

The National Safety Council says cellphones cause 1.6 million car crashes and 390,000 injuries a year. No mention was made of how many crashes and deaths were caused by landlines.

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