Predictive value of childhood and adulthood socioeconomic position on physical activity

  • B. Cheval
  • M. Gourlan
  • S. Sieber
  • M.P. Boisgontier
  • D. Courvoisier
  • S. Cullati


Background: Physical inactivity has been identified as one of the major risk factors for mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths in the world per year. To reduce mortality risk, daily physical activity (PA) is recommended by public health, in particular at older age. Previous research has shown that life course socioeconomic position is related to PA. Here we assessed the predictive value of childhood socioeconomic position (CSP) on the likelihood to reach the PA guidelines and examined whether adulthood socioeconomic position explains this association. Methods: Data were retrieved from 18,467 (40,228 observations) adults aged 50 years and older across 12 European countries of the longitudinal and cross-national Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe. The associations between CSP (assessed using retrospective information on living condition at age 10) and self-reported PA recommendations attainment were estimated using mixed effects logistic regressions. Models were adjusted for potential confounders and for mediating effects of educational achievement and main occupation class. Findings: Participants born in the most disadvantaged (Odds Ratio=1.18), disadvantaged (OR=1.29), and neutral (OR=1.16) CSP had greater odds of not reaching the PA recommendations, compared with participants born in the most advantaged socioeconomic position. The deleterious effect of the most disadvantaged CSP strengthened with ageing (OR=1.02). Educational attainment and main occupation class, mediated 76% of this association. Discussion: Education and main occupation class largely explained the deleterious effect of CSP on the odds of reaching the PA recommendations at older age. Potential implications for public health policy will be outlined.
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