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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - BMC public health
Title Association of car ownership and physical activity across the spectrum of human development: Modeling the Epidemiologic Transition Study (METS)
Author(s)
Volume 15
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-015-1435-9
Abstract
Background
Variations in physical activity (PA) across nations may be driven by socioeconomic position. As national incomes increase, car ownership becomes within reach of more individuals. This report characterizes associations between car ownership and PA in African-origin populations across 5 sites at different levels of economic development and with different transportation infrastructures: US, Seychelles, Jamaica, South Africa, and Ghana.

Methods
Twenty-five hundred adults, ages 25–45, were enrolled in the study. A total of 2,101 subjects had valid accelerometer-based PA measures (reported as average daily duration of moderate to vigorous PA, MVPA) and complete socioeconomic information. Our primary exposure of interest was whether the household owned a car. We adjusted for socioeconomic position using household income and ownership of common goods.

Results
Overall, PA levels did not vary largely between sites, with highest levels in South Africa, lowest in the US. Across all sites, greater PA was consistently associated with male gender, fewer years of education, manual occupations, lower income, and owning fewer material goods. We found heterogeneity across sites in car ownership: after adjustment for confounders, car owners in the US had 24.3 fewer minutes of MVPA compared to non-car owners in the US (20.7 vs. 45.1 minutes/day of MVPA); in the non-US sites, car-owners had an average of 9.7 fewer minutes of MVPA than non-car owners (24.9 vs. 34.6 minutes/day of MVPA).

Conclusions
PA levels are similar across all study sites except Jamaica, despite very different levels of socioeconomic development. Not owning a car in the US is associated with especially high levels of MVPA. As car ownership becomes prevalent in the developing world, strategies to promote alternative forms of active transit may become important.

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