A place to play: socioeconomic and spatial factors in children's physical activity

Aust Occup Ther J. 2008 Mar;55(1):2-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1630.2006.00646.x.


Background and aims: Concerns about physical inactivity in children and growing levels of obesity are expressed by politicians, health economists and those involved with the health and well-being of children. As this has the potential to be a major health issue, the aim of this investigation was to explore any contributing socioenvironmental considerations.

Methods and results: Census-matched survey data were analysed from 318 parents of 6- to 7-year-old children, revealing that family socioeconomic status (SES) influenced the places where children engaged in physical activity. Children from low SES backgrounds spent significantly more time playing close to their homes, and their families were less able to afford access to commercial physical-activity facilities, than those from middle and high SES families. Although neighbourhood-based activities are generally associated with more spontaneous free play, such activities may not provide the same opportunities for supervision and physical skill building available through commercial-based activities.

Conclusions: Given that access to 'enriching' physical-activity spaces may be limited by the capacity to pay, these findings have implications for professionals such as occupational therapists who can take on a role in advocating for equity in access and promotion of a more engaging urban design. Dialogue with urban planners is central to this process.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors