• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. Nov 2005; 59(11): 934–940.
PMCID: PMC1732943

Urban area disadvantage and physical activity: a multilevel study in Melbourne, Australia


Objective: To estimate variation between small areas in the levels of walking, cycling, jogging, and swimming and overall physical activity and the importance of area level socioeconomic disadvantage in predicting physical activity participation.

Methods: All census collector districts (CCDs) in the 20 innermost local government areas in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia, were identified and ranked by the percentage of low income households (<$400/week) living in the CCD. Fifty CCDs were randomly selected from the least, middle, and most disadvantaged septiles of the ranked CCDs and 2349 residents (58.7% participation rate) participated in a cross sectional postal survey about physical activity. Multilevel logistic regression (adjusted for extrabinomial variation) was used to estimate area level variation in walking, cycling, jogging, and swimming and in overall physical activity participation, and the importance of area level socioeconomic disadvantage in predicting physical activity participation.

Results: There were significant variations between CCDs in all activities and in overall physical participation in age and sex adjusted models; however, after adjustment for individual SES (income, occupation, education) and area level socioeconomic disadvantage, significant differences remained only for walking (p = 0.004), cycling (p = 0.003), and swimming (p = 0.024). Living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas was associated with a decreased likelihood of jogging and of having overall physical activity levels that were sufficiently active for health; these effects remained after adjustment for individual socioeconomic status (sufficiently active: OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.90 and jogging: OR = 0.69, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.94).

Conclusion: These research findings support the need to focus on improving local environments to increase physical activity participation.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (82K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Pate RR, Pratt M, Blair SN, Haskell WL, Macera CA, Bouchard C, Buchner D, Ettinger W, Heath GW, King AC, et al. Physical activity and public health. A recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. JAMA. 1995 Feb 1;273(5):402–407. [PubMed]
  • Burton NW, Turrell G. Occupation, hours worked, and leisure-time physical activity. Prev Med. 2000 Dec;31(6):673–681. [PubMed]
  • Crespo CJ, Ainsworth BE, Keteyian SJ, Heath GW, Smit E. Prevalence of physical inactivity and its relation to social class in U.S. adults: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Dec;31(12):1821–1827. [PubMed]
  • Owen N, Leslie E, Salmon J, Fotheringham MJ. Environmental determinants of physical activity and sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2000 Oct;28(4):153–158. [PubMed]
  • Owen Neville, Humpel Nancy, Leslie Eva, Bauman Adrian, Sallis James F. Understanding environmental influences on walking; Review and research agenda. Am J Prev Med. 2004 Jul;27(1):67–76. [PubMed]
  • Giles-Corti Billie, Donovan Robert J. Socioeconomic status differences in recreational physical activity levels and real and perceived access to a supportive physical environment. Prev Med. 2002 Dec;35(6):601–611. [PubMed]
  • Ball K, Bauman A, Leslie E, Owen N. Perceived environmental aesthetics and convenience and company are associated with walking for exercise among Australian adults. Prev Med. 2001 Nov;33(5):434–440. [PubMed]
  • Giles-Corti Billie, Broomhall Melissa H, Knuiman Matthew, Collins Catherine, Douglas Kate, Ng Kevin, Lange Andrea, Donovan Robert J. Increasing walking: how important is distance to, attractiveness, and size of public open space? Am J Prev Med. 2005 Feb;28(2 Suppl 2):169–176. [PubMed]
  • Powell Kenneth E, Martin Linda M, Chowdhury Pranesh P. Places to walk: convenience and regular physical activity. Am J Public Health. 2003 Sep;93(9):1519–1521. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bauman A, Smith B, Stoker L, Bellew B, Booth M. Geographical influences upon physical activity participation: evidence of a 'coastal effect'. Aust N Z J Public Health. 1999 Jun;23(3):322–324. [PubMed]
  • Saelens Brian E, Sallis James F, Frank Lawrence D. Environmental correlates of walking and cycling: findings from the transportation, urban design, and planning literatures. Ann Behav Med. 2003 Spring;25(2):80–91. [PubMed]
  • Frank Lawrence D, Schmid Thomas L, Sallis James F, Chapman James, Saelens Brian E. Linking objectively measured physical activity with objectively measured urban form: findings from SMARTRAQ. Am J Prev Med. 2005 Feb;28(2 Suppl 2):117–125. [PubMed]
  • Addy Cheryl L, Wilson Dawn K, Kirtland Karen A, Ainsworth Barbara E, Sharpe Patricia, Kimsey Dexter. Associations of perceived social and physical environmental supports with physical activity and walking behavior. Am J Public Health. 2004 Mar;94(3):440–443. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Giles-Corti Billie, Donovan Robert J. Relative influences of individual, social environmental, and physical environmental correlates of walking. Am J Public Health. 2003 Sep;93(9):1583–1589. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Huston Sara L, Evenson Kelly R, Bors Philip, Gizlice Ziya. Neighborhood environment, access to places for activity, and leisure-time physical activity in a diverse North Carolina population. Am J Health Promot. 2003 Sep-Oct;18(1):58–69. [PubMed]
  • Li Fuzhong, Fisher K John, Bauman Adrian, Ory Marcia G, Chodzko-Zajko Wojtek, Harmer Peter, Bosworth Mark, Cleveland Minot. Neighborhood influences on physical activity in middle-aged and older adults: a multilevel perspective. J Aging Phys Act. 2005 Jan;13(1):87–114. [PubMed]
  • Yen IH, Kaplan GA. Poverty area residence and changes in physical activity level: evidence from the Alameda County Study. Am J Public Health. 1998 Nov;88(11):1709–1712. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Sundquist J, Malmström M, Johansson SE. Cardiovascular risk factors and the neighbourhood environment: a multilevel analysis. Int J Epidemiol. 1999 Oct;28(5):841–845. [PubMed]
  • van Lenthe FJ, Brug J, Mackenbach JP. Neighbourhood inequalities in physical inactivity: the role of neighbourhood attractiveness, proximity to local facilities and safety in the Netherlands. Soc Sci Med. 2005 Feb;60(4):763–775. [PubMed]
  • Wendel-Vos G C Wanda, Schuit A Jantine, de Niet Raymond, Boshuizen Hendriek C, Saris Wim H M, Kromhout Daan. Factors of the physical environment associated with walking and bicycling. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Apr;36(4):725–730. [PubMed]
  • Ross CE. Walking, exercising, and smoking: does neighborhood matter? Soc Sci Med. 2000 Jul;51(2):265–274. [PubMed]
  • Martin D. Optimizing census geography: the separation of collection and output geographies. Int J Geogr Inf Sci. 1998 Oct-Nov;12(7):673–685. [PubMed]
  • Turrell G, Mengersen K. Socioeconomic status and infant mortality in Australia: a national study of small urban areas, 1985-89. Soc Sci Med. 2000 May;50(9):1209–1225. [PubMed]
  • Turrell G, Blakely T, Patterson C, Oldenburg B. A multilevel analysis of socioeconomic (small area) differences in household food purchasing behaviour. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2004 Mar;58(3):208–215. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Timperio A, Salmon J, Crawford D. Validity and reliability of a physical activity recall instrument among overweight and non-overweight men and women. J Sci Med Sport. 2003 Dec;6(4):477–491. [PubMed]
  • Ogilvie David, Egan Matt, Hamilton Val, Petticrew Mark. Promoting walking and cycling as an alternative to using cars: systematic review. BMJ. 2004 Oct 2;329(7469):763–763. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Diez Roux Ana V. Estimating neighborhood health effects: the challenges of causal inference in a complex world. Soc Sci Med. 2004 May;58(10):1953–1960. [PubMed]
  • Diez-Roux AV. Bringing context back into epidemiology: variables and fallacies in multilevel analysis. Am J Public Health. 1998 Feb;88(2):216–222. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Blakely TA, Woodward AJ. Ecological effects in multi-level studies. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000 May;54(5):367–374. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Song YM, Byeon JJ. Excess mortality from avoidable and non-avoidable causes in men of low socioeconomic status: a prospective study in Korea. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000 Mar;54(3):166–172. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...