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Persistent socio-demographic differences in physical activity among Scottish schoolchildren (1990-2002)

Study that examines the socio-demographic influences on physical activity participation in Scottish school children from 1990 to 2002.

Inchley, J. C.; Currie, D. B; Todd, J. M.; Akhtar, P. C. & Currie, C. E.  Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit (CAHRU), University of Edinburgh. (2005).

This paper reports socio-demographic data, and it’s influence on participation in physical activity for school children in Scotland (1990-2002). 

Aim: To monitor trends in physical activity participation using data collected from The Health Behaviour of School-aged Children:  WHO Collaborative Cross-National study (HBSC), in order to investigate the relationship between gender, age and socio-economic status (SES) and participation in physical activity.

Method:  The HBSC is administered every 4 years and includes items on physical activity outside of school hours and SES.  A nationally representative random probability cluster sample of school classes was drawn at each time point.  Data was collected from three school age groups (11.5, 13.5 and 15.5 years old). 

Findings:  Girls consistently reported lower levels of physical activity than boys over the 12-year period, with the difference between groups remaining relatively constant. Girls consistently became less active with age.   Adolescents from lower SES groups reported lower participation, however gender remains the most important factor contributing to differences in physical activity.  These two findings were compounded for adolescent females from low SES groups, as this group is most at risk from negative health consequences.

Suggestions:  It is suggested that the at risk adolescent female, low SES group should be targeted by interventions in order to address inequalities.  Barriers to participation must be identified in order to create effective interventions.

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European Journal of Public Health, 2005, 15 (4), 386-388.

Further Contact Details

Jo Inchley, Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh. E-mail:

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