Background: Physical activity is an important public health issue. Factors shown to be associated with physical activity are parenthood and country-level gender equality, while the importance of individual gender equality (in parenthood or in general) remains to explore. In Scandinavia, where parental leave can be shared equally between mothers and fathers, parental leave is one dimension of gender equality in parenthood. The aim of this study was to investigate parental leave in relation to increased physical activity among men and women.
Methods: Participants in the Northern Swedish Cohort with a child born 1993-2005 (n = 584) were investigated with questionnaires at ages 21 and 42; register data on parental leave between ages 28 and 42 were obtained from Statistics Sweden. The relationships between parental leave between ages 28 and 42 and meeting WHO guidelines for physical activity at age 42, as well as changes in physical activity between ages 21 and 42, were tested with multinomial regression, controlling for socio-economic status and birth year of the child.
Results: For women, the length of parental leave was not associated with increased physical activity or with meeting WHO guidelines at age 42. For men, parental leave was associated with increased physical activity, controlling for socio-economic status and age of the child, but not with meeting WHO guidelines for physical activity at age 42.
Conclusions: A gender non-traditional out-take of parental leave might be associated with an increase in physical activity among men at the lower end of the physical activity spectrum, but not among women.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.