A Comparison of Factors Associated with Physical Inactivity Among East Asian College Students



Little is known on the level of physical inactivity and its behavioral and cultural correlates among East Asian college students.


The aim of this study is to examine and compare the level and behavioral and cultural correlates of physical inactivity among college students in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia.


Data were collected from a representative sample of college students (N = 12,137) in five East Asian economies during the 2008–2009 academic year. The stratified random sampling (stratum: geographic region) was used to select participating institutions. The overall response rate was 77%.


The percentage of physically inactive students was 7.2% for Singapore, 8.0% for Malaysia, 13.5% for Taiwan, 16.8% for Hong Kong, and 28.5% for South Korea. When gender, age, and body mass index were controlled, fruit and vegetable consumptions were significant correlates for physical inactivity across all the five economies. In Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, those who engaged in binge drinking at least once during the past 2 weeks were less likely to be physically inactive than those who did not. Religion and military experience did not independently predict physical inactivity in any of the five economies.


Physical inactivity varies greatly across different economies in East Asia that are usually grouped together and considered a single homogeneous entity by some researchers. However, in terms of correlates of physical inactivity, findings of the current study indicate that the transversal value of physical activity might be transformed into a universal.

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Correspondence to Dong-Chul Seo.

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Seo, DC., Torabi, M.R., Chin, M.K. et al. A Comparison of Factors Associated with Physical Inactivity Among East Asian College Students. Int.J. Behav. Med. 19, 316–323 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-011-9167-4

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  • Physical inactivity
  • East Asia
  • College health
  • Cross-cultural difference