BACKGROUND: To date, the scientific literature on socioeconomic correlates and determinants of physical activity behaviours has been dispersed throughout a number of systematic reviews, often focusing on one factor (e.g. education or parental income) in one specific age group (e.g. pre-school children or adults). The aim of this umbrella review is to provide a comprehensive and systematic overview of the scientific literature from previously conducted research by summarising and synthesising the importance and strength of the evidence related to socioeconomic correlates and determinants of PA behaviours across the life course.
METHODS: Medline, Embase, ISI Web of Science, Scopus and SPORTDiscus were searched for systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses of observational studies investigating the association between socioeconomic determinants of PA and PA itself (from January 2004 to September 2017). Data extraction evaluated the importance of determinants, strength of evidence, and methodological quality of the selected papers. The full protocol is available from PROSPERO (PROSPERO2014:CRD42015010616).
RESULTS: Nineteen reviews were included. Moderate methodological quality emerged. For adults, convincing evidence supports a relationship between PA and socioeconomic status (SES), especially in relation to leisure time (positive relationship) and occupational PA (negative relationship). Conversely, no association between PA and SES or parental SES was found for pre-school, school-aged children and adolescents.
CONCLUSIONS: Available evidence on the socioeconomic determinants of PA behaviour across the life course is probable (shows fairly consistent associations) at best. While some evidence is available for adults, less was available for youth. This is mainly due to a limited quantity of primary studies, weak research designs and lack of accuracy in the PA and SES assessment methods employed. Further PA domain specific studies using longitudinal design and clear measures of SES and PA assessment are required.