International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 60, Issue 7, pp 799–813 | Cite as

Socioeconomic position during childhood and physical activity during adulthood: a systematic review

  • C. E. JuneauEmail author
  • T. Benmarhnia
  • A. A. Poulin
  • S. Côté
  • L. Potvin



A growing body of evidence links socioeconomic position early in life and physical activity during adulthood. This systematic review aimed to summarize this evidence.


Medline and EMBASE were searched for studies that assessed socioeconomic position before age 18 years and physical activity at age ≥18 years. Studies were rated according to three key methodological quality criteria: (1) was childhood socioeconomic position assessed prospectively? (2) Was socioeconomic position during adulthood included in the statistical analysis? (3) Was a validated instrument used to measure of physical activity?


Forty-two publications were included. Twenty-six (61.9 %) found a significant association between socioeconomic position early in life and physical activity during adulthood. Twenty-one studies met at least two methodological quality criteria. Among those, the proportion was higher: 15/21 (71.4 %). Associations were of weak to moderate strength, positive for physical activity during leisure time, and negative for transports and work.


The bulk of the evidence supports the notion that there is a life course association between socioeconomic position early in life and physical activity during adulthood. Studies using more rigorous methodology supported this conclusion more consistently.


Public health Epidemiology Physical activity Longitudinal studies Socioeconomic position Systematic review 



This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (#204633), the University of Montreal, the University of Montreal Public Health Research Institute, the Quebec Inter-University Centre for Social Statistics, and the Centre Léa-Roback de recherche sur les inégalités sociales de santé de Montréal. None of the funding bodies had any input in the design, conduct, or reporting of this study.

Conflict of interest

We declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

38_2015_710_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (179 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 178 kb)


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. E. Juneau
    • 1
  • T. Benmarhnia
    • 1
  • A. A. Poulin
    • 1
  • S. Côté
    • 1
  • L. Potvin
    • 1
  1. 1.École de Santé Publique, Faculté de MédecineUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada

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