Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are people in more affluent countries in Europe more likely to be physically active during leisure time?

Socioeconomic inequalities in physical activity at the individual level are well reported; in the more affluent countries, people who are relatively less well off are less likely to engage in leisure time physical activities. Whether inequalities in economic development and other macro-environmental variables between countries are also related to physical activity at the country-level is less well documenten.
In a study that was recently published in e-pub -with Dr. Adrian Cameron from Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, as first author- in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, we examined the relationship between country-level data on macro-economic environmental factors (Gross Domestic Product (GPD) per capita, public sector expenditure on health, percent living in urban areas and cars per 1000 population) with country-level physical activity prevalence obtained from previous pan-European studies. Studies that assessed leisure-time physical activity (n=3 studies including 27 countries in adults, n=2 studies including 28 countries in children) and total physical activity (n=3 studies in adults including 16 countries) were analysed separately.
We found strong and consistent positive correlations between leisure-time physical activity and country GDP per capita in adults. No such associations were found for children, nor for total physical activity.
Differences in national leisure-time physical activity levels in adults throughout Europe may this be a consequence of economic development. relative lack of economic development of some countries in Europe may make increasing leisure-time physical activity there more difficult, while these countries may be most in need of physical activity promotion.