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Childhood disadvantage linked to adult inactivity 


A comprehensive review funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) has found that a disadvantaged childhood can place adults at risk of not doing enough sports and exercise.

The new research, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, was the first to systematically review all available evidence,including that from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD), to determine if socioeconomic circumstances in early life influences physical activity in adult life.

Researchers found that adults who were lower down the socioeconomic hierarchy during childhood, e.g. with parents in manual occupations or with less educational attainment, were less likely to take part in sports and exercise later in life when compared with adults from more advantaged childhood backgrounds.

By including a large number of studies, scientists were able to see if their findings were consistent across different populations and they report that associations were especially evident among women and in British cohorts. Ahmed Elhakeem, MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, who led the research, explains “We know that young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds are generally less active than those who are well-off and the findings of our review suggest that exercise habits developed early in life may track across the life course and into adulthood”. The review concludes by calling for more opportunities and support to enable children from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in and maintain sports and exercise across life.

The study can be accessed at:

Elhakeem A, Cooper R, Bann D, Hardy R: Childhood socioeconomic position and adult leisure-time physical activity: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015 Jul 3;12(1):92.