Cross-national comparisons of socioeconomic differences in the prevalence of leisure-time and occupational physical activity, and active commuting in six Asia-Pacific countries

Adrian Bauman, Guansheng Ma, Frances Cuevas, Zainal Omar, Temo Waqanivalu, Philayrath Phongsavan, Kieren Keke, Anjana Bhushan
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2011, 65 (1): 35-43

BACKGROUND: This study describes physical activity patterns and their association with socioeconomic factors in six countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and examines whether physical activity associations with socioeconomic status follow similar patterns across the six countries.

METHODS: Population-wide representative surveys of non-communicable disease risk factors and socioeconomic factors conducted in Australia, China, Fiji, Malaysia, Nauru and the Philippines between 2002 and 2006 were used. Survey respondents aged 18-64 years who provided information on their socioeconomic status (age, education, income, area of residence) and physical activity level in three domains (leisure-time, occupation, commuting) were included in the study (Australia N=15,786; China N=142,693; Fiji N=6763; Malaysia N=2572; Nauru N=2085; Philippines N=3307).

RESULTS: Leisure-time physical activity increased with age in China, showed inverse associations for Fiji and Nauru men, and there were no age relationships in other countries. Individuals in China, Fiji and Malaysia living in urban areas, with higher educational attainment and affluence were physically active during leisure time but less active at work and during commuting compared to those in rural areas, with lower educational attainment and lower income.

CONCLUSION: There is a link between types of physical activity participation and socioeconomic factors in developing countries. Associations with socioeconomic indicators are likely to reflect economic growth. The findings strongly support the need for a comparable non-communicable risk factors surveillance system in developing countries.

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