J Epidemiol Community Health 57:23-28 doi:10.1136/jech.57.1.23
  • Research report

Social capital and leisure time physical activity: a population based multilevel analysis in Malmö, Sweden

  1. M Lindström,
  2. M Moghaddassi,
  3. J Merlo
  1. Department of Community Medicine, University Hospital MAS, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Lindström, Department of Community Medicine, University Hospital MAS, Lund University, S 205 02 Malmö, Sweden;
  • Accepted 30 April 2002


Objective: To investigate the influence of social capital and individual factors on the level of leisure time physical inactivity in the neighbourhoods.

Methods: The public health survey in Malmö 1994 is a cross sectional study. A total of 5600 people aged 20–80 years were invited to answer a postal questionnaire. The participation rate was 71%. A multilevel logistic regression model, with individuals at the first level and neighbourhoods at the second, was performed. The effect (intra-area correlation, cross level modification, and odds ratios) was analysed of individual and neighbourhood (the 1993 migration out of an area as a proxy for social capital) factors on leisure time physical inactivity after adjustment for individual factors.

Results: Neighbourhood factors accounted for 5.0% of the crude total variance in physical inactivity. This effect was significantly reduced when the individual factors, especially country of origin, education, and social participation, were included in the model. In contrast, it was not reduced by the introduction of the contextual social capital variable.

Conclusion: This study suggests that in the neighbourhoods of Malmö leisure time physical inactivity is mainly affected by individual factors.


  • Funding: this study was supported by grants from the Swedish Council for Planning and Coordination of Research (D2000–0992:5 A14–5/618) and the Medical Faculty, Lund University.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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