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The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on socioeconomic differences in physical activity behavior (2021)

evidence from the Lifelines COVID-19 cohort study

Covid-19 and measures to contain spreading the disease have led to changed physical activity behavior. This study aims to investigate the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and changes in the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during the Covid-19 crisis.

Using the Dutch Lifelines Covid-19 cohort study (n = 17,749), the amount of MVPA was measured at 15 time-points between March and December 2020, and compared with the amount before the Covid19 pandemic. For SES, the population was stratified in three education and income levels. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and confidence interval (CI) of altered MVPA for low and high SES groups, with the middle SES category as the reference group. A clear socioeconomic gradient in changes in MVPA behavior was observed. Low educated individuals had significantly higher odds (OR = 1.14; CI: 1.03–1.27) of decreasing MVPA, while the high educated had significantly lower odds of decreased MVPA (OR = 0.84, CI: 0.79–0.90). Both low education (OR = 0.87; CI: 0.77–0.98) and low income (OR = 0.85; CI 0.78–0.92) had significantly lower odds to increase MVPA, while high education (OR = 1.21, CI: 1.12–1.30) and high income (OR = 1.17; CI: 1.07–1.28) had significantly higher odds to increase MVPA. Most findings were consistent over the full research period.

Socioeconomic inequalities in MVPA have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, even when Covid-19 containment measures were relaxed. Our findings suggest that future public health policies need to increase efforts to improve physical activity behavior with an even larger focus on low SES groups.


  • The Covid-19 crisis has led to many changes in physical activity behavior.
  • We observe a strong socioeconomic gradient in the changed moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) behavior.
  • Persons with low socioeconomic status (SES) had significantly higher odds for decreasing MVPA, than high SES.
  • Persons with low SES had significantly lower odds for increasing MVPA, than high SES.
  • The Covid-19 crisis may have a lasting impact on socioeconomic inequality in MVPA.
Literatuurverwijzing: Boer, W.I.J. de, Mierau, J.O., Schoemaker, J., Viluma, L., Koning, R.H., & Lifelines Corona Research Initiative (2021). The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on socioeconomic differences in physical activity behavior: evidence from the Lifelines COVID-19 cohort study. Preventive Medicine 153