Urban area disadvantage and physical activity: a multilevel study in Melbourne, Australia

Anne M Kavanagh, Jane L Goller, Tania King, Damien Jolley, David Crawford, Gavin Turrell
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2005, 59 (11): 934-40

OBJECTIVE: To estimate variation between small areas in the levels of walking, cycling, jogging, and swimming and overall physical activity and the importance of area level socioeconomic disadvantage in predicting physical activity participation.

METHODS: All census collector districts (CCDs) in the 20 innermost local government areas in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia, were identified and ranked by the percentage of low income households (<400 dollars/week) living in the CCD. Fifty CCDs were randomly selected from the least, middle, and most disadvantaged septiles of the ranked CCDs and 2349 residents (58.7% participation rate) participated in a cross sectional postal survey about physical activity. Multilevel logistic regression (adjusted for extrabinomial variation) was used to estimate area level variation in walking, cycling, jogging, and swimming and in overall physical activity participation, and the importance of area level socioeconomic disadvantage in predicting physical activity participation.

RESULTS: There were significant variations between CCDs in all activities and in overall physical participation in age and sex adjusted models; however, after adjustment for individual SES (income, occupation, education) and area level socioeconomic disadvantage, significant differences remained only for walking (p = 0.004), cycling (p = 0.003), and swimming (p = 0.024). Living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas was associated with a decreased likelihood of jogging and of having overall physical activity levels that were sufficiently active for health; these effects remained after adjustment for individual socioeconomic status (sufficiently active: OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.90 and jogging: OR = 0.69, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.94).

CONCLUSION: These research findings support the need to focus on improving local environments to increase physical activity participation.

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