Urban-Rural Differences in Children?s and Adolescent?s Physical Activity and Screen-Time Trends Across 15 Years
Sprache des Titels:
Urban and rural areas have been experiencing major demographic and structural changes, characterized by an aging population in rural areas and a growth of cities in number and size. However, it is poorly researched how children?s physical activity and screen time developed in urban and rural areas. To address this deficit, we investigated physical activity and screen-time trends in Germany?s pediatric population across four urbanicity levels (rural, small town, medium-sized town, city).
We obtained weighted data at three cross-sectional timepoints between 2003 and 2017, representative for Germany?s child and adolescent population. Physical activity and screen time were self-reported. We analyzed trends using a structural equation modeling framework for the overall sample and calculated interactions between the trends and age and gender, respectively.
In total, 12,161 children and adolescents between 4 and 17 years participated in the study. Children and adolescents in rural areas experienced a downward trend in total physical activity. Outdoor play and leisure-time physical activity decreased across all areas, with the strongest decline in rural areas. Computer and gaming time increased across all areas except for cities, with the sharpest increase in rural areas. The decline in outdoor play and the incline in computer and gaming time were driven by adolescents. Females showed stronger increases in computer and gaming time than males.
Our findings suggest that in a representative sample of children and adolescents in Germany, detrimental trends in children?s physical activity and screen time occur at a higher rate in rural areas compared with urban environments. This provides critical information for health policy: While all children and adolescents should be targeted for physical activity promotion, a special focus should be on tailoring interventions for rural areas to prevent and mitigate inequalities in physical activity across urban and rural areas.