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Employment status and differences in physical activity behavior during times of economic hardship: results of a population-based study

Gloria Macassa, Nader Ahmadi, Johana Alfredsson, Henrique Barros, Joaquim Soares, Mindaugas Stankunas.

Abstract
Background: The recent economic recession has lead to an increased unemployment in many countries worldwide. In addition, research has suggested that economic recession can have an impact on an individual’s health behaviors, including engagement in physical activity. Gävleborg County in southeast Sweden, experienced massive job losses owing to the closures of large industries and small companies, which resulted in an increased unemployment rate in 2010, at the pick of the economic recession.

Objective: To investigate the differences in physical activity by employment status among economically active persons living in Gävleborg County in 2010.

Materials and Methods: The data were obtained from a cross-sectional survey carried out in Gävleborg County, in 2010, among the residents aged 16–65 years (n = 4,245). Data analysis was carried out using descriptive statistics and weighted logistic regression.

Result: There was a statistically significant association between employment status and physical activity. People who were not employed in 2010 showed higher odds of physical inactivity when compared with their employed counterparts. The differences in physical activity behavior were explained, mainly, by health and socioeconomic and related factors.

Conclusion: Being outside the labor market was associated with increased physical inactivity during a period of economic recession in Gävleborg County. From a policy perspective, our study suggests the need to promote physical activity during times of high unemployment in order to foster better health behaviors.

Key words: Gävleborg, employment status, physical activity, economic recession



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