In 2012, 33 million adults accessed the Internet every day, more than double the 2006 figure of 16 million, when directly comparable records began
Approximately 87% of adults aged between 16 and 24, used social networking sites in 2012, compared to 48% of all adults
Telephone or video calls over the Internet were made by 32% of adults in 2012, double the 2009 estimate of 16%, and four times higher than the 2007 estimate of 8%
Access to the Internet using a mobile phone more than doubled between 2010 and 2012, from 24% to 51%
In 2012, 32% of adults accessed the Internet using a mobile phone every day
This release explores the use of the Internet by adults in Great Britain. It provides useful information for those interested in what adults use the Internet for, and on developments regarding mobile Internet access and use.
The estimates in this release were originally due to be published on 24 August 2012 in the Internet Access – Households and Individuals, 2012 statistical bulletin. These estimates were delayed due to a data collection problem. Consequently, the bulletin published on 24 August 2012 solely focussed on household Internet access and adults’ use of computers. A new survey for 2012 was carried out between August and October 2012, and the data collected have been used to compile this release.
The Internet has changed the way people go about their daily lives. Almost half of British adults accessed news via the Internet in 2012, while increasing numbers are using the Internet to watch TV or listen to the radio. Activities that were previously only available on the high street are now possible using the Internet. For example, in 2012 almost half of all adults banked online and two thirds shopped over the Internet.
This release reveals that adults aged 25 to 44 used the Internet more than any other age group to carry out a wide range of established ‘every day’ activities, such as personal banking; reading the news; buying groceries, household goods and clothes. However, for new activities such as social networking, which did not exist prior to the creation of the Internet, those aged 16 to 24 lead the way.
In the infancy of the Internet, the main way of access was via a personal computer. New ways of accessing the Internet have developed in recent years, with those adults aged 16 to 24 adopting these new technologies at a faster rate than any other age group, especially via the use of Internet enabled mobile phones.
The results in this release are derived from the Opinions and Lifestyles survey. On 20 February 2013, ONS published the latest quarterly statistics on adults who had ever or never used the Internet within the Internet Access Quarterly Update, Q4 2012 statistical bulletin. The quarterly estimates are derived from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The LFS has a much larger sample than the Opinions and Lifestyles survey and therefore allows for more detailed socio-demographic analysis to be undertaken. The Quarterly Update should be used as ONS’s official source for the number of individuals in Great Britain accessing the Internet.
ONS first collected statistics on Internet access in 1998. Since then, a number of changes have been made to the Internet Access survey, including the publication of annual results since 2006. Where possible, comparisons over time are made in this release. However, the available coverage in time series comparisons varies, because the questions included in the survey vary each year.Back to table of contents
We are constantly aiming to improve this release and its associated commentary. We would welcome any feedback you might have, and would be particularly interested in knowing how you make use of these data to inform your work. Please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone David Matthews on +44 (0)1633 456756.Back to table of contents
On 20 February 2012, as part of the Internet Access Quarterly Update, ONS reported that 42 million people in Great Britain have used the Internet, representing approximately 85% of the adult population.Back to table of contents
In 2012, 33 million adults in Great Britain used the Internet every day, or almost every day. This represented 68% of those aged 16 and over and was more than double the number of adults (16 million) that used the Internet daily in 2006 (when directly comparable records began). In contrast to the growth in daily Internet use, the number of weekly Internet users has declined since 2006, from 7.4 million (16%) to 5.3 million in 2012 (11%). This demonstrates that as the number of people using the Internet has increased over time, so has the frequency of use.
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There are distinct differences in how individuals make use of the Internet when analysed by age. As ‘early-adopters’, it is of little surprise that those adults aged 16 to 24 are proportionately, the largest users of many of the available Internet activities. In 2012, this age group were most likely to engage in online activities that focused on leisure or recreation; especially new activities such as social networking (87%), posting messages to chat sites/forums/blogs (60%) or playing or downloading games/films/music (67%).
There is growing popularity among slightly older age groups; particularly those aged 25 to 34, to engage in online activities which are based on more ‘established’ activities such as personal banking or shopping. Previously, whereas people would have traditionally headed to the high street to shop, bank or send a letter, there are now new online ways of carrying out these activities via websites, or increasingly, mobile applications. Adults aged 25 to 34 reported the highest level of use in activities such as; online shopping (87%), use of email (87%), Internet banking (69%) and reading online news/newspapers (66%).
For most activities first surveyed in 2007 there has been a sizeable increase in use between 2007 and 2012. Of particular note, there has been a sizable increase in the proportion of adults making telephone or video calls over the Internet (e.g. Skype). From a slow uptake between 2007 (8%) and 2010 (18%), use has almost doubled over the past two years, to nearly a third of adults (32%) in 2012 now partaking in this activity.
The initial Internet Access Households and Individuals 2012, Part 1 release reported that 93% of households with Internet access in Great Britain connected via a broadband connection. As people demand faster Internet connections it is unsurprising that multimedia activities such as watching web television or listening to web radio have increased in popularity, from 17% of adults in 2007 to 38% in 2012. This is likely to increase in the future as digital TV providers are increasingly offering more downloadable content via the Internet.Back to table of contents
The convenience of Internet shopping has proved very popular in Great Britain. It is estimated that two thirds (67%) of adults bought goods or services online in 2012, up from just over half (53%) in 2008. Almost 9 in every 10 adults (87%) aged 25 to 34 shopped online in 2012; this was the highest proportion of adults across all age groups. Additionally, nearly a third (32%) of those aged over 65 also bought online, double the estimate in 2008 of 16%.
There is a noticeable difference in the type of goods bought online, when analysed by age. In 2012, only 18% of those aged 16 to 24 bought holiday accommodation online, compared with 42% of those aged 35 to 44.
Clothes or sports goods were the most popular online purchase in 2012, purchased by 42% of adults. Those aged 35 to 44 were most likely to buy these items (59%).
Proportionately, more women purchased clothes and sports goods, books, magazines and newspapers, food and groceries than men. In contrast, men purchased in greater proportions than women, across a range of categories, in particular electronic equipment, video games, films, and computer hardware and software.
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Over the past 10 years the way in which people access the Internet has changed. When the Internet first became available, the only way that the majority of adults could gain access was from their home or at work. Increasingly Internet use ‘on the go’ (outside of the home or work) has become a viable option and is now a popular means of accessing the Internet on a daily basis.
In 2012, almost six in ten adults (58%) accessed the Internet ‘on the go’, making use of Wifi hotspots or a mobile phone network. More than three quarters of adults (83%) aged under 45 used the Internet ‘on the go’, with the youngest group, those aged 16 to 24, reporting the highest use (89%). This was closely followed by those aged 25 to 34 (85%).Back to table of contents
The term ‘portable computer’ used to be assigned to the use of a laptop, notebook or netbook. However, there has been very large growth, recently, in the use of tablet computers such as Apple iPads or Samsung Galaxy tablets. In 2012, 21% of adults used a tablet to access the Internet away from the home or work. This, again, was more prevalent among the younger age groups, with those aged 16 to 24 reporting the highest use (37%).
Despite this rapid growth in the use of tablet computers, more people (34%) still accessed the Internet ‘on the go’ over a laptop (or notebook / netbook) in 2012 making it the most popular form of portable computing. It will be interesting to see if this changes in future years as tablets seem to be continuing to increase in popularity.
In 2012, 18% of adults used a portable computer (tablet, laptop etc) every day to access the Internet away from home or work. More than a quarter of those aged under 45 accessed the Internet daily this way, with the highest use (31%) reported by those aged 25 to 34.
Wifi hotspots (at restaurants, hotels etc) were the most popular way adults accessed the Internet on a portable computer (69%). The use of a mobile phone network by adults to connect to the Internet on a portable computer was also popular, at 56%.Back to table of contents
In 2012, 51% of adults used a mobile phone to access the Internet. This is more than double the estimate of 24% for 2010. The two youngest age groups (16 to 24 and 25 to 34) both reported mobile phone Internet use above 80% in 2012. While still reporting the lowest usage, those aged over 65 have shown a four-fold increase in mobile phone Internet use from 2% in 2010 to 8% in 2012.
Men (56%) were more likely to use the Internet on their mobile phone than women (46%).
In 2012, almost one third of all adults used a mobile phone to access the Internet on a daily basis. Those aged 16 to 24 were most likely to use a mobile phone to access the Internet every day (60%). This is compared to just 2% of those aged over 65.
Adults who used a mobile phone to access the Internet most commonly used a mobile phone network to go online (85%). Just under half (49%) reported making use of wifi hotspots to access the Internet.Back to table of contents
In 2012, the most popular activity carried out on a mobile phone, as measured by the survey, was the sending or receiving of emails (41% of all adults used a mobile phone to access their emails in 2012). A third of adults accessed social networks on a mobile phone. This was the most popular activity for those aged 16 to 24 (72%).
Almost a third of adults (32%) used location based applications such as Google maps on a mobile phone in 2012. These apps make use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) to plot a location or help a user find services nearby. Men were more likely to use these applications (40%) than women (25%). More than half of those aged under 35 used these applications; 50% of the youngest group (those aged 16 to 24) and 60% of those aged 25 to 34. This is in contrast to only 14% of those aged 55 to 64 and 3% of adults aged 65+.
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‘Frequent problems with a network signal’ was an issue reported by 47% of those adults who made use of the Internet ‘on the go’. Just over half (54%) of Internet users, making use of the Internet ‘on the go’, aged 16 to 24, indicated that this was a problem they experienced at least once a week.
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In 2012, personal preference, rather than a barrier preventing use, was the main reason given for not using the Internet ‘on the go’. For example, three-quarters of those Internet users who chose not to use the Internet ‘on the go’ reported that they ‘didn’t need Internet access away from home or work’. This increases to almost 8 out of every 10 Internet users aged over 65.
Almost a third of non-users (31%) aged 16 to 24 said that the cost of a portable web-enabled device or associated subscription prevented them using the Internet this way.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 456756