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Physical activity in older women: associations with area deprivation and with socioeconomic position over the life course: observations in the British Women’s Heart and Health Study
  1. M Hillsdon1,
  2. D A Lawlor2,
  3. S Ebrahim3,
  4. J N Morris4
  1. 1
    Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2
    Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  3. 3
    Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  4. 4
    Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. M Hillsdon, Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TP, UK; m.hillsdon{at}


Objective: To assess the association between residential area-level deprivation, individual life-course socioeconomic position and adult levels of physical activity in older British women.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of 4286 British women aged 60–79 years at baseline, who were randomly selected from general practitioner lists in 23 British towns between April 1999 and March 2001 (the British Women’s Heart and Health Study).

Results: All three of childhood socioeconomic position, adult socioeconomic position and area of residence (in adulthood) deprivation were independently (of each other and potential confounders) associated with physical activity. There was a cumulative effect of life-course socioeconomic position on physical activity, with the proportion who undertook no moderate or vigorous activity per week increasing linearly with each additional indicator of life-course socioeconomic position (p<0.001 for linear trend).

Conclusion: Adverse socioeconomic position across the life-course is associated with an increased cumulative risk of low physical activity in older women. Reducing socioeconomic inequalities across the life course would thus be expected to improve levels of physical activity and the associated health benefits in later life.

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  • Funding: DAL is funded by a (UK) Department of Health career scientist award. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of any funding body or others whose support is acknowledged. No funding body has influenced the analysis or its interpretation.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Contributions: All authors contributed to the development of the study aims and writing of the paper. DAL co-directs the British Women’s Heart and Health Study, undertook the analyses, wrote the first of the papers and co-ordinated further drafts. SE is the director of the British Women’s Heart and Health Study. MH and DAL acted as guarantors.

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