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

Eur J Public Health. 2005 Aug;15(4):386-8. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cki084. Epub 2005 Jul 13.


Background: Regular participation in physical activity can have significant health gains in terms of physical and psychological wellbeing but there is evidence to suggest that many young people are not sufficiently active to benefit their health. This paper examines the socio-demographic patterning of leisure-time vigorous physical activity among Scottish schoolchildren between 1990 and 2002.

Methods: The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children survey of 11-, 13- and 15-year-old schoolchildren has been carried out in Scotland since 1990 at four-yearly intervals. Levels of vigorous physical activity were measured in relation to gender, age and socio-economic status (SES).

Results: Girls reported lower levels of vigorous physical activity than boys and this gender difference persisted throughout the four survey years, irrespective of changes in overall levels of physical activity. Vigorous physical activity was also consistently lower among lower SES groups and older adolescents. The effect of gender was greatest, with high-SES girls reporting lower levels of vigorous activity than low-SES boys, and low-SES girls being the least active overall.

Conclusion: Scottish adolescent females, especially those from low SES groups, may be at particular risk of the adverse health effects associated with low levels of physical activity. Health promotion programmes to promote physical activity need to address these persistent gender and socio-economic inequalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors