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The socioeconomic gradient in physical inactivity: Evidence from one million adults in England


  • Farrell, Lisa
  • Hollingsworth, Bruce
  • Propper, Carol
  • Shields, Michael A.


Understanding the socioeconomic gradient in physical inactivity is essential for effective health promotion. This paper exploits data on over one million individuals (1,002,216 people aged 16 and over) in England drawn from the Active People Survey (2004–11). We identify the separate associations between a variety of measures of physical inactivity with education and household income. We find high levels of physical inactivity. Further, both education and household income are strongly associated with inactivity even when controlling for local area deprivation, the availability of physical recreation and sporting facilities, the local weather and regional geography. Moreover, the gap in inactivity between those living in high and low income households is already evident in early adult life and increases up until about age 85. Overall, these results suggest that England is building up a large future health problem and one that is heavily socially graded.

Suggested Citation

  • Farrell, Lisa & Hollingsworth, Bruce & Propper, Carol & Shields, Michael A., 2014. "The socioeconomic gradient in physical inactivity: Evidence from one million adults in England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 55-63.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:123:y:2014:i:c:p:55-63
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.10.039

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tomas Philipson, 2001. "The world-wide growth in obesity: an economic research agenda," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 1-7.
    2. Cutler, David M. & Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2010. "Understanding differences in health behaviors by education," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-28, January.
    3. Deaton, Angus S & Paxson, Christina H, 1998. "Aging and Inequality in Income and Health," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 248-253, May.
    4. Grossman, Michael, 2006. "Education and Nonmarket Outcomes," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    5. van Kippersluis, Hans & Van Ourti, Tom & O'Donnell, Owen & van Doorslaer, Eddy, 2009. "Health and income across the life cycle and generations in Europe," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 818-830, July.
    6. Giles-Corti, Billie & Donovan, Robert J., 2002. "The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(12), pages 1793-1812, June.
    7. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2005.065573_5 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Henry Saffer & Dhaval Dave & Michael Grossman & Leigh Ann Leung, 2013. "Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Physical Activity," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 378-410.
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    1. repec:eee:socmed:v:216:y:2018:i:c:p:59-66 is not listed on IDEAS


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