Medical Reading

Sports Participation More Likely Among Comfortably-Off, Middle-Aged White People, UK

May 25, 2017

A person who is middle class, middle-aged and white is more likely to take part in sporting activities compared to other people in society, says a ten-year study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In fact, the study reports that the gap is widening.

The results of the study are based on information gathered from several of the national representative annual Health Survey for England 1997-2006. The whole sample consisted of 61,000 adults, of whom 27,217 were male.

Compared to 1997, in 2006 men were 10% more likely and women about 20% more likely to practice sports regularly. To say that sporting activities have declined over the years is oversimplistic, say the researchers.

Since 1997 there are 4% more regular female runners/joggers. 20% of both men and women are more likely to take part in gym and fitness activities compared to 1997.

However, this rise in sports participation is largely due to a significant increase in uptake by middle-aged and older individuals. Most noticeable are the increasing trends among both men and women aged 45 or more, and women aged 30-44.

On the other hand, the percentage of men under 30 who took part in cycling, dancing and racquet sports dropped significantly.

Both men and women are most likely to be put off taking part in sports and physical activity if they are overweight. The researchers said the higher the household income the more likely people are to take part in sports - they also found a correlation between car ownership, higher social class, and general good health and higher sports participation.

The authors report that fewer people in England from black or Asian backgrounds regularly do exercise.

Of concern, say the authors, is the drop in sporting activity among younger people. They added "Another cause for concern is that there are no signs that the gap between high and low socioeconomic groups and white and non-white ethnic groups is narrowing."

"Temporal trends in adults' sports participation patterns in England between 1997 and 2006: the Health Survey for England
Emmanuel Stamatakis and Moushumi Chaudhury
Online First Br J Sports Med 2008; doi 10.1136/bjsm.2008.048082
Click here to view abstract online