University of Oulu

Sanna Huikari, Hanna Junttila, Leena Ala-Mursula, Timo Jämsä, Raija Korpelainen, Jouko Miettunen, Rauli Svento, Marko Korhonen, Leisure-time physical activity is associated with socio-economic status beyond income – Cross-sectional survey of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study, Economics & Human Biology, Volume 41, 2021, 100969, ISSN 1570-677X,

Leisure-time physical activity is associated with socio-economic status beyond income : cross-sectional survey of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study

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Author: Huikari, Sanna1; Junttila, Hanna2; Ala-Mursula, Leena3;
Organizations: 1Department of Economics, Accounting and Finance, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 4600, FIN-90014, University of Oulu, Finland
2Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 4600, FIN-90014, University of Oulu, Finland
3Center for Life Course Health Research, P.O. Box 5000, FIN-90014, University of Oulu, Finland
4Medical Research Center, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, 90014, Oulu, Finland
5Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, FIN-90014, University of Oulu, Finland
6Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Oulu University Hospital, Kajaanintie 50, FIN-90220, Oulu, Finland
7Department of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Oulu Deaconess Institute Foundation sr, Albertinkatu 18A, P.O. Box 365, 90100, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: embargoed
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2021
Publish Date: 2023-01-02


We apply neoclassical economic modelling augmented with behavioral aspects to provide a detailed empirical investigation into indicators of socio-economic status (SES) as determinants of leisure-time physical activity. We utilize the data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 obtained at the most recent time point during 2012–2014 (response rate 67 %), at which time the participants were approximately 46 years old. Our final study sample consists of 3,335 employed participants (1520 men, 1815 women; 32.3 % of the target population). We apply logistic regression methods for estimating how the probability of being physically active is related to various indicators of socio-economic status, taking into account physical activity at work and individual lifestyle, family- and health-related factors. Overall, our findings show that belonging to a higher socio-economic group, whether defined by income level, educational attainment, or occupational status, is associated with higher leisure-time physical activity. However, when we analyze different socio-economic groups, defined in terms of education, income and occupation, separately, we find that income is not a significant determinant of leisure-time physical activity within any of the particular SES groups. Further, we find that leisure-time physical activity is negatively associated with higher screen time (i.e., watching TV and sitting at a computer), and other aspects of unhealthy lifestyle, and positively associated with self-assessed health. In addition, we note that proxies for individual motivational factors and childhood physical activity, such as the grade point average and the grade achieved in physical education when leaving basic education, are strongly correlated with leisure-time physical activity in middle age among men, but not among women. Our results are in line with behavioral economics reasoning that social comparisons and environments affect behaviors. We emphasize the importance of considering behavioral economic factors when designing policies to promote physical activity.

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Series: Economics & human biology
ISSN: 1570-677X
ISSN-E: 1873-6130
ISSN-L: 1570-677X
Volume: 41
Article number: 100969
DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2020.100969
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 511 Economics
3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
5142 Social policy
Funding: NFBC1966 data collection at 46 years received financial support from the University of Oulu (grant no. 24000692), Oulu University Hospital (grant no. 24301140), and the European Regional Development Fund (grant no.539/2010 A31592). This work was partly funded by Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland and Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District (grants no. OKM/86/626/2014, OKM/43/626/2015, OKM/17/626/2016OKM/54/626/2019 and OKM/85/626/2019 to RK and TJ).
Copyright information: © 2021 Elsevier B.V. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license