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Lower health care costs in neighbourhoods with more sports clubs members

03 January 2020
Jochen Mierau

Research among the entire Dutch population by the University of Groningen, the UMCG and the HAN University of Applied Sciences has shown that districts with a higher percentage of sports clubs members have lower health care costs. In addition, populations of 'poor' neighbourhoods (with a low socio-economic status (SES)), that exercise more generally have lower health care costs than a comparable neighbourhood that exercises less. For the 'richer' neighbourhoods this connection is less clear.

Research results

For the study, all population data from all neighbourhoods in the Netherlands were combined with socio-economic differences in health care costs in which the role of four lifestyle indicators (smoking, alcohol consumption, sport and exercise) was investigated - including physical exercise and membership of sports clubs. The results showed that average health care costs are significantly lower in neighbourhoods with more sports clubs members (regardless of their SES). The results also show that physical activity in low SES neighbourhoods in particular can lead to much lower health care costs. From this it can be concluded that when policies are developed to stimulate (membership of) sports clubs, health care costs can be lowered in all socio-economic groups and increasing physical activity can be specifically effective in low SES neighbourhoods.

Rising health care costs

In recent decades, health care costs have risen significantly, making affordability of health care a major challenge. In the Netherlands, health care accounts for ± 13% of gross domestic product and the expenditure per capita will almost double between 2015 and 2040, according to RIVM estimates.

Health expenditure is not only a given, but is strongly linked to socio-economic aspects. Previous research, published in the American Journal of Public Health in the spring, has shown that there is a clear relationship between the SES of a neighbourhood and the average health care costs per person. Poor neighbourhoods have significantly higher health care costs, even when differences in age and gender between neighbourhoods are taken into account. The current follow-up study ("How are lifestyle factors associated with socioeconomic differences in health care costs? Evidence from full population data in the Netherlands") is the first to study the role of lifestyle factors on this socio-economic gradient in health care costs.

For more information, please contact Jochen Mierau, Scientific Director of the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health – j.o.mierau

On the website of Preventive Medicine you can read the publication::

Last modified:01 February 2023 4.21 p.m.
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