The relationship between socio-economic status and physical activity patterns in South African children

Acta Paediatr. 2004 Jul;93(7):982-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2004.tb02699.x.


Aim: To examine: (1) the associations between socio-economic status, physical activity, anthropometric and body composition variables in South African children; (2) the influence maternal characteristics have on children's physical activity levels; and (3) associations between television watching, activity level and body composition.

Methods: In 381 South African children, physical activity and socio-economic status were assessed via structured retrospective interview using validated questionnaires. An asset indicator score was calculated as a proxy measure of socio-economic status and used to divide children into quartiles.

Results: Children falling into the highest socio-economic status quartile had mothers with the highest educational levels, generally came from dual parent homes, were highly physically active, watched less television, weighed more and had greater lean tissue than children in lower quartiles. A greater percentage of children living in dual parent homes and with mothers of a higher educational status were highly active compared with children living in single parent homes and with mothers of a lower educational status. We found greater levels of lean mass with increased activity level after controlling for television watching time and fat mass. There were high levels of low activity and high television watching time among lower socio-economic status groups. There were significant racial differences in patterns of activity. White children were found to be more active than black children, more likely to participate in physical education classes at school and watched less television than black children.

Conclusion: Physical activity levels and socio-economic variables are closely related in this population of South African children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South Africa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires