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Publication Detail
Life-course social participation and physical activity in midlife: Longitudinal associations in the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70)


A hypothesized benefit of social participation is that it encourages people to be more physically active. However, limited evidence exists on the association between social participation over the life-course and physical activity in midlife. We sought to apply a life-course framework to examine the association of social participation and device measured physical activity in midlife in the UK.


We used the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study (BCS70), which includes all people born in Britain during a single week in 1970. Social participation was assessed at ages 16, 30, 34 and 42. Physical activity was measured by accelerometery at age 46, as mean daily step count and time spent in Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA). The associations of social participation and physical activity were tested using two different life-course models: the sensitive period model and the accumulation model.


Individuals with medium and high participation compared to no social participation over their life-course had higher mean daily step count and MVPA in midlife, supporting the accumulation model. In the sensitive period model, only those that actively participated at age 42 had higher mean daily steps and MVPA compared to those who did not participate.


Our study provides empirical evidence on the importance of sustaining social participation at all ages over the life-course rather than at a particular timepoint of someone’s life. Interventions to promote social participation throughout the life-course could be an avenue to promote physical activity in middle life.
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Behavioural Science and Health
Div of Surgery & Interventional Sci
IOE - Social Research Institute
MRC Unit for Lifelong Hlth & Ageing
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