Economic analysis of participation in physical activity in England: implications for health policy

Nana Kwame Anokye, Subhash Pokhrel, Julia Fox-Rushby

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Changing the relative price of (in) activity is an important tool for health policies. Nonetheless, to date, analyses of correlates of physical activity (PA) have excluded the notion of price. Using the first nationwide dataset on prices of PA for England, we explore for the first time how money and time prices are associated with PA (in general) and specific activities.

A nationally representative telephone follow-up survey to Health Survey for England (HSE) 2008 was undertaken in 2010. The sample covered individuals who reported to have undertaken some PA in the HSE 2008. Questions focussed on: ex-post money and time prices; type and quantity of PA; perceived benefits of PA and socio-economic details. Count regression models (all activities together, and swimming, workout, walking separately) were fitted to investigate the variation in quantity of PA.

Of 1683 respondents, 83% participated in PA (one or more activities), and spent an average of £2.40 per occasion of participation in PA and 23 minutes travelling. Participation in PA was negatively associated with money prices per occasion (i.e. family member/child care fees, parking fees, and facility charges) and travel time price. Participation in PA was more sensitive to travel time price than money price. Among the specific activities, the money price effect was highest for swimming with a 10% higher price associated with 29% fewer occasions of swimming; followed by workout (3% fewer occasions) and walking (2% fewer occasions). Only swimming and workout were sensitive to travel time price. People who felt doing PA could help them `get outdoors¿, `have fun¿, or `lose weight¿ were likely to do more PA.

Two main policy implications emerge from the findings. First, the results support the notion that positive financial incentives, e.g. subsidising price of participation, could generally lead to an increase in quantity of PA among those already exercising. Second, such policies could lead to desired policy goals if implemented at an individual activity level (e.g. 50% subsidy on swimming entrance charges) rather than a blanket implementation (e.g. subsidising average entrance charges across all activities by 50%).
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2014


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