Hanging Up on Landlines: Most US Homes Are Now Cellphone-Only


By Sara G. Miller

Are landline phones going the way of floppy disks and VCRs? A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says yes.

In the last six months of 2016, less than half of U.S. households had landlines, according to a new CDC report.

The researchers found that 50.8 percent of U.S. households used only cellphones, marking the first time that fewer than half of household had landlines, according to the report, published today (May 4). The percentage of households with only cellphones is up 2.5 points from the measurement taken the previous year.

The rates of people living in cellphone-only households were highest among adults ages 25 to 34. In this age group, more than 71 percent did not have a landline, the researchers found. For older adults, the rates of people living in cellphone-only households was lower. Less than one-quarter of adults ages 65 and up, for example, lived in cellphone-only households.

Adults who rented their homes also had high rates of living in cellphone-only households. Just over 71 percent of adults who rented had only a cellphone, compared with nearly 41 percent of adults who owned their homes, the researchers found. For adults living with roommates, the rates of those living in cellphone-only households was even higher: nearly 84 percent.

Income also appeared to play a role in whether a household had a landline, according to the report. Adults living in poverty or near poverty were more likely to have only a cellphone than adults had higher incomes, the researchers found.

In the report, the researchers also looked at certain measures of health. Adults in cellphone-only households were more likely to report at least one day of heavy drinking in the past year than adults in homes with landlines, the researchers found. Nearly 30 percent of cellphone-only adults reported one such day in the past year, compared with nearly 19 percent of landline-household adults.

Compared with adults in households that had landlines, people living in cellphone-only households were less likely to have health insurance and less likely to have gotten their flu shots in the previous year, the study said. However, adults in cellphone-only households were more likely than adults in households with landlines to have their health described as “excellent” or “very good,” the report found.

Cellphone-only and landline households weren’t the only categories that researchers looked at in the report. The researchers also found that 3.2 percent of U.S. households had no telephone service at all in the last six months of 2016. This translates to about 7.4 million adults and 2.3 million children, according to the report.

But there was also one more category that the researchers included: households that had landlines, but rarely used them. In other words, these households took all or almost all of their phone calls on cellphones. In the second half of 2016, this category accounted for 38 percent of households with landlines, or 15 percent of all households, the researchers found.

Originally published on Live Science.