& the GII
This page offers some statistics about email traffic and
It covers -
is more detail and discussion of the bigger picture in
the Metrics & Statistics
guide elsewhere on this site.
Media coverage of messaging statistics has been bedevilled
by incomprehension, hyperbole, amazement and sheer dishonesty.
One reason is the problematical nature of data collection.
Internet service providers and corporate network operators
do not systematically count and report the number of messages
going through their gateways. There is no authoritative
government body independently reporting on international
traffic or drawing together statistics from official sources
in each nation. Figures assembled by commercial sources
are often drawn from dubious samples or simply reported
without any indication of their basis. As a result there
is real uncertainty about volume, destination and demographics.
Another reason is that many statistics have a promotional
value, used - or misused - to grab attention for -
reports about office rentals
jeremiads about "information overload"
pop-psychology articles on "the pace
of modern living"
items (so useful for 'slow news days') about "email
bankruptcy" and the funkiness of the "email
advocacy for why your organisation should buy a network
Some statistics are used to give an air of authority to
claims by marketers, some of whom assert to have definitive
information - all yours for a correspondingly impressive
fee - on such matters as the best time of the day/week/year
to send email, when most people (or simply the desired
demographics) open their email and what will persuade
the recipient to read rather than trash.
A final reason is that many statistics are reported uncritically,
with little analysis of where the data came from, what
it means and whether any analysis is credible.
Figures tend to get publicity simply because they appear
to be large (so the larger the better), although the scale
or consumption may not be much greater than use of traditional
media such as letters or the telephone.
Discussion elsewhere on this site regarding cyber-addiction
for example questions some of the more over-wrought laments
that people are spending hours online using instant messaging
or email services ... often the same amount of time they've
spent in the past on the phone or dealing with the post.
In July 2006 the London Times claimed -
billion emails are dispatched every day wordwide (up
from 12 billion in 2001)
of emails are junk, including about 1% that are virus-infected
average number of email messages received per person
in the UK each day is 32, supposedly growing by 84%
million 'electronic mailboxes' are in use across the
globe, including 170 million corporate addresses (with
32% growth per year)
Radicati Group is reported as estimating in August 2008
that around 210 billion email messages are sent each day,
supposedly from 1.3 billion email users. Over 70% of those
messages are likely to be spam
contain viruses. VeriSign estimated in 2005 that there
were over 2.25 billion email messages per day.
For many people in Australia and overseas the internet
still predominantly equals access to unformatted electronic
A perspective on email statistics is provided by a 132
page report (PDF)
from US specialist eMarketer in 2001.
The August 2001 Gallup Poll reported
more than nine in 10 US respondents indicate that email
(97%) and the net (96%) have made their lives better.
The report was based on an email-only survey of US adults.
It claimed that the 'typical' user is online for seven
to eight hours each week; 37% indicated that they were
online for over 10 hours per week. One in eight spent
20 hours or more online each week.
Sending/reading mail was the 'killer app', with 90% of
Gallup's respondents saying they used email at home and
80% at work. 53% used email at both locations and most
had more than one email address: only 23% had a single
address, 33% had two addresses, 14% had three, 7% had
four, and 22% had five or more.
A 2001 survey
for Return Path, a US provider of 'change-of-address services',
indicated that 74% of respondents owned multiple email
addresses, with an average of 2.6 per consumer. Most had
specific addresses for any or all of work/school, home,
website subscriptions, and a constant address in case
they change jobs or schools.
It found that less than one-third of consumers regularly
notify sites and newsletters of their address change.
41% of those surveyed had changed an email address at
least once in the last two years (15% changed addresses
two or more times in that time). Among those consumers
who changed addresses, only 37% notified any regularly
visited sites of the change. 31% notified businesses that
regularly send them email; 24% notified sites where they
make regular purchases; and 16% notified discussion lists/groups.
46% of those notifying a change of address did so by email
(40% during a recurrent visit to a site).
A March 2001 report from UK business services company
Regus warned, unconvincingly, of an 'email divide'
in suggesting that office workers in London and the South
relied more on email to communicate with colleagues and
clients than their northern and Scottish counterparts.
11% of those in London (and 2% of those in the South)
sent 91 to 100 "business-related" emails every
day. 27% sent between 11 and 30 business emails in an
average day. 25% of Southern office workers sent 11 to
20 messages. Up North 76% of office workers sent less
than ten work related emails per day. 20% sent between
11 and 20. Regus claimed that during an average day Scots
office workers sent no more than ten business related
David Boyle's The Tyranny of Numbers (London: Flamingo
2001) asserts that the "average American" spends
8 months answering/sending email during a lifetime.
The 2001 ABA Australian Families & Internet Use
in suggesting that 61% of adults were online and 30% of
all Australians were online at home, noted that email
was the most used internet service.
52% of respondents in the Gallup study noted above said
email was their most common online activity.
51% of those who used email at work checked it at least
once an hour. Only 5% checked it less often than once
a day. Most checked their email at home either a couple
times a day (30%) or about once a day (41%); 22% checked
it less often. The Return Path survey suggested that 83%
of respondents accessed email for business purposes at
least once a day; 82% accessed email for personal purposes
at least once a day and 53% for school purposes.
A majority of Gallup's users reported less reliance on
the phone and snailmail but are unwilling to abandon those
media. There was no appreciable gender difference in willingness
to part with post or mobile phones. Users were most willing
to sacrifice mobile phones (55%) followed by letters (21%),
email (16%) and the telephone (7%).
The typical Gallup email user spent 7 to 8 hours online
per week (half spend more time online and half spend less).
The heaviest users - online 40 hours or more per week
- were usually male or below the age of 50.
61% of women said that email messaging was their most
frequent online activity, compared to 44% of men. Only
23% of women said searching for information was their
most frequent online activity, compared to 39% of Gallup's
Gallup's typical user received 12 messages at work each
day; 28% got 20 or more each day. In contrast, sending
mail was less common: the typical user supposedly despatched
six messages at work each day. 16% sent 20 or more messages
per day. At home the typical user received eight messages
each day and sent three, with 11% getting over 20 each
day at home and only 1% sending that many from home.
39% reported that coworkers and business associates were
their most frequent email respondents, followed by family
members (33%) - including children (9%), siblings (9%),
significant others (6%) and parents (5%). 28% indicated
that they email friends most often.
The Year-End 2000 Mailbox Report
from Messaging Online suggested that, globally, there
were around 891 million email addresses ("mailboxes"),
many with services such as Hotmail. Consumers comprised
60% of email accounts, equivalent to one address for every
thirteen people on the planet.
The number of US mailservice subscribers climbed by 73%
in 2000. Other parts of the globe experienced 109% growth
and the number of wireless messaging devices grew to 31.8
million (excluding a supposed 500 million short message
Carriage & content behemoth AOL Time Warner headed
the global list of ISP mailservices with 11.4% of the
234 million addresses. Microsoft's Hotmail had 30.3% of
the 280 million webmail subscribers. China's SinaMail
ranked 5th globally with 11.5 million addresses, ahead
of Brazil's UOLmail (7 million users).
Newsweek claimed that in 1999 the number of average
daily office communications per capita in the US was
54 - Email - 54
23 - Voice mail
18 - Snail mail
14 - Fax
8 - Pager
4 - Mobile phone
Most users in the 2001 Gallup survey said that up to 30%
of messages they receive are spam;
39% say they receive more than that, including 18% who
say that at least half their email is spam.
42% said they "hate it," 45% said spam is "an annoyance,
but do not hate it," while the rest have no strong feelings
either way (9%), or sometimes find the information contained
in spam useful (4%). Users aged 18 to 29 are much more
likely to say they hate spam (67%) than the 30 to 49 age
cohort (43%) or over fifties (26%).
The E-mail Overload in Congress: Managing a Communications
suggests that members of Congress and their staff received
around 80 million emails in 2000, with some offices receiving
well over a thousand messages a day. The volume of email
has risen from around 36 million per year in 1998.
The December 2000 Pew Internet Project's
on The holidays online: Emails and e-greetings
outpace e-commerce suggests
that 53% of the US online population (over 51 million
people) sent email during December to relatives and friends
to discuss the holidays or make plans. 32% of users sent
e-greeting cards. Hispanics
were more likely than other groups to have sent e-greeting
cards (45% did so) and a gender gap
in sending online greeting cards saw 38% of women send
cards versus 27% of men. Online women were more active
holiday emailers, with 56% having sent an email to family
or friends about the holidays, compared to 50% of online
points of reference
In 2001 Australians wrote 450 letters
per capita. (The annual figure for the US is 700; for
Lebanon it is 4.)
The International Postal Union (IPU)
suggests that in 1997 the global figure for letters was
an average of 71 letters per person: 703 per person in
the US, 547 in Norway, 493 in Sweden, under 1 in Angola.
The IPU estimates that in 1998 over 1.1 billion letters
were posted each day for delivery within national borders:
approximately 420 billion domestic letters. The US had
the largest domestic letter traffic (around 197 billion
letters in 1998); China had 26 billion domestic letters,
Japan and France each had 25 billion, India had 16 billion,
Brazil had 5 billion and Cambodia had a mere 37 000.
As of 1998 around 23 million letters crossed national
borders each day, with a global figure of 8.5 billion
international letters per year. The UK was responsible
for the largest number of international letters (968 million
letters in 1998), followed by the United States with 644
million letters sent overseas.
Australia Post claimed in 1998 that the total number of
letters mailed Australia had increased by 38% since 1960.
In that year letters supposedly accounted for "half
of all 3 billion messages sent" in Australia; by
1998 letters comprised 19% of the 24 billion messages
Around 45% of US adults owned a mobile
phone as of mid-2003, compared to 75% of their EU
(disclaimers and signatures)