Table of Contents
ISRN Public Health
Volume 2012, Article ID 318610, 7 pages
Research Article

Local Labor Market Fluctuations and Physical Activity among Adults in the United States, 1990–2009

1Pardee RAND Graduate School, RAND Corporation, 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, California, CA 90407, USA
2Economics Department, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA
3Economics Department, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

Received 9 September 2012; Accepted 26 September 2012

Academic Editors: E. Alderete, E. Lazcano-Ponce, and N. Wedderkopp

Copyright © 2012 Ruopeng An and Junyi Liu. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Being physically active is a key health promotion strategy. The late-2000s economic downturn, labeled the “Great Recession,” could have profound impact on individuals' health behaviors including engagement in physical activity. We investigated the relationship between local labor market fluctuations and physical activity among adults 18 years and older in the United States by linking individual-level data in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 1990–2009 waves to unemployment rate data by residential county and survey month/year. The association between labor market fluctuations and physical activity was examined in multivariate regressions with county and month/year fixed effects. Deteriorating labor market conditions were found to predict decreases in physical activity—a one percentage point increase in monthly county unemployment rate was on average associated with a reduction in monthly moderate-intensity physical activity of 0.18 hours. There was some preliminary evidence on the heterogeneous responses of physical activity to local labor market fluctuations across age and income groups and races/ethnicities. Findings of this study suggest special attentions to be paid to the potential detrimental impact of major recessions on physical activity. This correlational study has design and measurement limitations. Future research with longitudinal or experimental study design is warranted.