Purpose: This study examined the associations between childhood physical activity level and adulthood earnings.
Methods: The data were drawn from the ongoing longitudinal Young Finns Study, which was combined with register-based Finnish Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data and register-based parents' background information from the Longitudinal Population Census of Statistics Finland. The study consisted of children who were 9 yr (n = 1257, 52% boys), 12 yr (n = 1662, 51% boys), and 15 yr (n = 1969, 49% boys) of age at the time when physical activity was measured. The children were followed until 2010, when they were between 33 and 45 yr old. Leisure-time physical activity in childhood was self-reported, whereas earnings in adulthood were register based and covered over a 10-yr period from 2000 to 2010. Ordinary least squares models were used to analyze the relationship between physical activity and earnings.
Results: Childhood physical activity level was positively associated with long-term earnings among men (P < 0.001). In more detail, a higher level of leisure-time physical activity at the age of 9, 12, and 15 yr was associated with an approximate 12%-25% increase in average annual earnings over a 10-yr period. The results were robust to controlling, e.g., an individual's chronic conditions and body fat, parents' education and physical activity, and family income. Among women, no relation was observed.
Conclusions: The findings provide evidence that childhood physical activity can have far-reaching positive effects on adulthood earnings. Possibilities for improving physical activity during childhood may not only promote health but also affect long-term labor market outcomes.