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Half of Americans leave landline behind

Telephone cord cutter
Cord cutters hit 50 percent.Getty Images

A new study indicates that fully half of Americans are living in a household that uses only or mostly mobile phones — but the remainder is slow to convert.

The Centers for Disease Control's National Health Interview Study conducts in-person interviews throughout the year, asking about everything from health and insurance status to household telephones. They've put together some of the data from the first half of 2012 and the results, while not shocking, are significant.

Of the more than 20,000 households interviewed, just over half used wireless (i.e. cellular) phones for all or nearly all phone calls — 35.9 percent were wireless-only, and 15.9 percent had a landline but rarely used it. That adds up to 51.8 percent of all households, which is less than 2 percent more than for the same period last year.

Why such a small increase? While younger people are adopting wireless phones as their only phone in record numbers, older folks are hanging onto their landlines. The percentage of people going wireless only steadily decreases as age increases: Only a quarter of those aged 45-64 were totally wireless, and just a tenth of those above age 64. That said, every age segment saw their wireless-only population increase by between 1 and 5 percent.

The highest percentage of wireless-only users appears to be among adults living with unrelated adult roommates — 75.9 percent, almost three times the proportion of people living only with spouses or other adult family (but down slightly from last year's numbers).

So young people in population-dense areas, especially renters and people with low income, are happy to leave behind the expense and inconvenience of a landline. But for people who have had a landline for years, relatively few choose to abandon it.

The rest of the study, including methods and many more statistics, can be found at the CDC's website.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBCNews Digital. His personal website is