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Cross-national comparisons of socioeconomic differences in the prevalence of leisure-time and occupational physical activity, and active commuting in six Asia-Pacific countries
  1. Adrian Bauman1,
  2. Guansheng Ma2,
  3. Frances Cuevas3,
  4. Zainal Omar4,
  5. Temo Waqanivalu5,
  6. Philayrath Phongsavan6,
  7. Kieren Keke7,
  8. Anjana Bhushan8,
  9. for the Equity and Non-communicable Disease Risk Factors Project Collaborative Group
  1. 1School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China
  3. 3Degenerative Disease Office, Department of Health, Manila, Philippines
  4. 4Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  5. 5Ministry of Health, Fiji, China
  6. 6School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  7. 7Government of Nauru, Republic of Nauru, China
  8. 8Division for Health Sector Development, Western Pacific Regional Office World Health Organization, Philippines
  1. Correspondence to Adrian Bauman, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Medical Foundation Building, New South Wales, Sydney 2006, Australia; adrianb{at}


Background This study describes physical activity patterns and their association with socioeconomic factors in six countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and examines whether physical activity associations with socioeconomic status follow similar patterns across the six countries.

Methods Population-wide representative surveys of non-communicable disease risk factors and socioeconomic factors conducted in Australia, China, Fiji, Malaysia, Nauru and the Philippines between 2002 and 2006 were used. Survey respondents aged 18–64 years who provided information on their socioeconomic status (age, education, income, area of residence) and physical activity level in three domains (leisure-time, occupation, commuting) were included in the study (Australia N=15 786; China N=142 693; Fiji N=6763; Malaysia N=2572; Nauru N=2085; Philippines N=3307).

Results Leisure-time physical activity increased with age in China, showed inverse associations for Fiji and Nauru men, and there were no age relationships in other countries. Individuals in China, Fiji and Malaysia living in urban areas, with higher educational attainment and affluence were physically active during leisure time but less active at work and during commuting compared to those in rural areas, with lower educational attainment and lower income.

Conclusion There is a link between types of physical activity participation and socioeconomic factors in developing countries. Associations with socioeconomic indicators are likely to reflect economic growth. The findings strongly support the need for a comparable non-communicable risk factors surveillance system in developing countries.

  • Chronic disease
  • physical activity
  • surveillance
  • social inequalities
  • social economic
  • chronic DI
  • surveillance SI

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Sydney, Ref: 03-2009/11569.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.