Link between income inequality and physical activity for women, but not for men.

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Link between income inequality and physical activity for women, but not for men.

 A  paper published in the Journal of Public Health finds that women from areas with high income inequality are less likely to meet overall physical activity recommendations than men from the same geographical area, which is a really interesting finding in terms of how the increasing inequality effects the two genders.

While previous studies have shown that the majority of US adults are not meeting the 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this new study is one of the first to investigate the association between state-level income inequality and physical activity for men and women. In analyzing data gathered from over 350,000 adults in the US, the researchers found that, among adult women, high income inequality was associated with a lower likelihood of meeting aerobic, strengthening, and overall physical activity recommendations. The study does not find the same association between state-level income inequality and physical activity for men.

These findings are consistent with other studies which identify how income inequality affects the health of men and women differently and support the suggestion that women's health status might be affected by income equality. However, this paper goes further in drawing an association between the impact of increased income inequality on levels of physical activity and associated health conditions such as obesity and coronary heart disease for women in these areas.

The study suggests that reasons such as increased working hours and greater caring responsibilities for women as well as a growing number of households headed by women (see male suicide below) are impacting the amount of time available to women for physical activity and therefore increasing the risk of associated conditions.

Despite these findings on women's health, the study does not provide a plausible mechanism for how income inequality relates to coronary heart disease among men. The researchers suggest further investigation to determine why women are less likely to meet physical activity recommendations in states with higher income inequality and to further explore the reasons for the association between income inequality and physical activity.

So what? Suicide by any other name? Increasing inequality is leading to an alarming death rate due to drug overdose by men (as a previous study noted in TR showed opioid overdose was now the leading cause of death in the US among men under 50. This and other studies have shown that this opioid epidemic is largely caused by under employment and unemployment). The non-drug suicide rate is also increasing at an alarming rate in the US, Europe, and Australasia among both men and women.

I suspect the lack of physical exercise by women is due largely to depression—depressed people exercise less—and is a form of suicide, a giving up

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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