Does regional disadvantage affect health-related sport and physical activity level? A multi-level analysis of individual behaviour

This study examines the role of regional government quality in health-related participation in sport and physical activity among adults (18-64 years) in 28 European countries. The importance of the analysis rests in the relative autonomy that regional (and local) governments have over policy decisions connected with sport and physical activity. While existing studies have focused on economic and infrastructural investment and expenditure, this research investigates the quality of regional governments across 208 regions within 28 European countries. The individual-level data stem from the 2013 Eurobarometer 80.2 (n=18,675) and were combined with regional-level data from Eurostat. An individual’s level of participation in sport and physical activity was measured by three variables reflecting whether an individual’s activity level is below, meets, or exceeds the recommendations of the World Health Organization. The results of multi-level analyses reveal that regional government quality has a significant and positive association with individual participation in sport and physical activity at a level meeting or exceeding the guidelines. The impact is much larger than that of regional gross domestic product per capita, indicating that regional disadvantage in terms of political quality is more relevant than being disadvantaged in terms of economic wealth.