Monday, August 6, 2012

Neighbourhood social capital and sports participation

In a paper just published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity -with Dr. Rick Prins as first author - we aimed to explore whether adolescents are more likley to participate in sports when they live in neighbourhoods where there are more sport facilities and parks, and with more so-called 'neighbourhood social capital'. The study was conducted among adolsecents in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Crucial to social capital at the community level is having common norms, behavioural
reciprocity and mutual trust. Neighbourhood social capital may influence health behaviors such as sports participation, via various pathways. For instance, neighbours that trust each other are more likely to help and support each other and do things together. In addition, in neighbourhoods with more social capital people may talk more with each other and this may enable faster and better transfer of information on healthy behaviours and better social support.  So basically, beter social capital may help to improve social norms, social support and positive role models for health behaviours such as sports participation.
We used data of the YouRAction study from 852 adolescents in the city of Rotterdam. Neighbourhood social capital was assessed with questionnaires; availability of sports facilities and parks was objectively obtained from geographic information systems.
Our analyses showed that neighbourhood social capital was significantly associated with sports participation; in neighbourhoods with higher social capital the liklehood that adolescents engaged in sports was more than three time that of their peers in lower social capital neighbourhoods. We did not find a significant association of availability of sports facilities or parks with sports participation, but a combination of high social capital and availability of parks did appear to make a difference.
The results thus indicate that leisure time sports participation is more likely in neighbourhoods that have positive social and physical environmental features.