Modifiable Behaviors Help to Explain the Inequalities in Perceived Health Associated With Deprivation and Social Class: Evidence From a National Sample

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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The association between health and deprivation is of serious concern to many health promotion agencies. The purpose of the current study was to assess whether modifiable behaviors of physical activity (PA), sports participation, diet, smoking and body mass index (BMI) can help to explain these inequalities in a sample of 4653 respondents from Northern Ireland.


The study is based on a cross-sectional survey of Northern Irish adults. Responses to a self-rated health question were dichotomized and binary logistic regression was used to identify the health inequalities between areas of high, middle or low deprivation. These differences were further adjusted for other sociodemographic factors and subsequently for various modifiable behaviors of PA, sports participation, diet, smoking, and BMI.


Respondents from high and middle areas of deprivation are more likely to report poorer health. As soon as sociodemographic factors and other modifiable behaviors were included, these inequalities either disappeared or were greatly reduced.


Many inequalities in health in NI can be explained by the respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics that can be further explained by introducing information about respondents who meet the recommended PA guidelines, play sport, eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, and maintain an optimal BMI.

Nevill is with SPAL, University of Wolverhampton, Walsall, West Midlands, United Kingdom. Donnelly is with Sport Northern Ireland, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. Shibli is with the Sport Industry Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Foster is with the School of Public Health, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. Murphy is with the School of Sports Studies, University of Ulster, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.