In recent decades, the prevalence of physical activity has declined considerably in many developed countries, which has been related to rising levels of obesity and several weight-related medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease. There is evidence that areas exhibiting particularly low levels of physical activity have undergone a strong transition away from employment in physically demanding occupations. It is proposed that such processes of deindustrialisation may be causally linked to unexplained geographical disparities in physical activity. This study investigates how geographical variations in deindustrialisation are associated with current levels of physical activity across different activity domains and relevant macro-economic time periods in England. The analysis includes data on 27,414 adults from the Health Survey for England 2006 and 2008 who reported total, occupational, domestic, recreational and walking activity. Based on employment change in industries associated with heavy manual work, a local measurement of industrial decline was developed, covering the period 1841–2001. We applied a multilevel modelling approach to study associations between industrial decline and physical activity. Results indicate that the process of deindustrialisation appears to be associated with patterns of physical activity and that this is independent of household income. The effects observed were generally similar for men and women. However, the nature of the association differed across areas, time periods and employment types; in particular, residents of districts characterised by a history of manufacturing and mining employment had increased odds of reporting low activity levels. We conclude that post-industrial change may be a factor in explaining present-day variations in physical activity, emphasising the plausible impact of inherited cultures and regional identities on health related behaviours.
- Physical activity
- Multilevel analysis