Cross national study of leisure-time physical activity in Dutch and English populations with ethnic group comparisons

1 Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The European Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 2.59). 07/2012; 23(3). DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/cks088
Source: PubMed


Variations between countries in leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) can be used to test the convergence thesis, which expects that ethnic minority groups change towards the LTPA levels of the native population of host countries. The aim of this study was to test whether similar differences in LTPA between the native populations of England and the Netherlands are also observed among the Indian and African descent groups living in these countries.

We used English and Dutch population-based health surveys that included participants aged 35-60 years of European (n(english) = 14,723, n(dutch) = 567), Indian (n(english) = 1264, n(dutch) = 370) and African-Caribbean (n(english) = 1112, n(dutch) = 689) descent. Levels of LTPA (30-minute walking, any reported cycling, gardening, dancing and playing sports) were estimated with age-sex-standardized prevalence rates. Comparisons among groups were made using adjusted Prevalence Ratios (PRs).

Within both countries and compared with the European group, Indian and African groups had lower levels of gardening and cycling, whereas the African groups had higher levels of dancing. Between countries, among the European groups, the Netherlands showed higher prevalence of cycling than England, PR = 2.26 (95% CI: 2.06-2.48), and this was 2.85 (1.94-4.19) among Indian descent, and 2.77 (2.05-3.73) among African descent. For playing sports, this was PR = 1.30 (1.23-1.38), 1.43 (1.24-1.66) and 1.22 (1.10-1.34), whereas for gardening this was PR = 0.71 (0.65-0.78), 0.65 (0.52-0.81) and 0.75 (0.62-0.90), respectively. Walking and dancing showed inconsistent differences between the countries and ethnic groups.

This cross-national comparison supports the expectation that LTPA of Indian and African descent groups converge towards the national levels of England and the Netherlands respectively.

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