OECD Health Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership health studies prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

English, French

Diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviours

Analysis of trends, inequalities and clustering in selected oecd countries

Prevalence of non-communicable diseases has increased in past decades in the OECD. These conditions have many risk factors, including poor quality diet, insufficient physical activity, and excess sedentarism. These behaviours are also at the root of overweight and obesity, which are themselves risk factors leading to non-communicable diseases. Using the most recent data available from individual-level national health surveys and health interviews, this paper paints a picture of the situation in terms of diet and physical activity in eleven OECD countries.

Fruit and vegetable consumption remains low in all countries, as daily consumption of five fruit and vegetables per day rarely reaches 40%; diet quality can also be improved, although it is higher in some countries. Physical activity levels are more encouraging, with over 50% of the population reporting to reach the World Health Organization target in all countries, and excess sedentarism is high in two of the seven countries studied. Disparities by level of education and socio-economic status are visible for all health behaviours: overall, those with higher socio-economic characteristics consume a healthier diet and are more physically active, but also more sedentary. Inequalities and gender gaps vary by country and by health indicator. A latent class analysis was run to classify individuals into different groups, depending on their various health behaviours (adherence to national diet guidelines, sufficient physical activity, and low sedentarism). This approach demonstrated that these behaviours are linked, and allowed to determine the traits (demographic, health) of individuals in each class. This analysis allows policy-makers to specifically target these populations with interventions aiming to improve their health. Globally, men with higher socio-economic characteristics were more likely to be in the groups displaying less healthy behaviours.


JEL: D12: Microeconomics / Household Behavior and Family Economics / Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis; I18: Health, Education, and Welfare / Health / Health: Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health; I12: Health, Education, and Welfare / Health / Health Behavior; I14: Health, Education, and Welfare / Health / Health and Inequality
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