Sport participation and the social and physical environment: Explaining differences between urban and rural areas in the Netherlands
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Number of pages
SourceLeisure Studies, 36, 3, (2017), pp. 357-370
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR SOC
SubjectInequality Cohesion Rationalization; Ongelijkheid Cohesie Rationalisatie
In this study, we investigated the intensity of sport participation in the Netherlands comparing urban and rural areas. Using a socio-ecological theoretical model, we focussed on the extent to which the rural–urban divide in sport participation is explained by micro-level (socio-demographics), meso-level (safety and socio-economic status of neighbourhoods) and exo-level (variety and proximity of sport facilities) characteristics. We tested our theoretical expectations using representative data on 17,910 Dutch inhabitants between 6 and 79 years of age. Our study reconfirmed the importance of individual socio-demographics (micro-level), such as age, education and household income for sports participation. Furthermore, our results showed that weekly sport participation was more common in rural than in urban areas. This rural–urban divide in sport participation especially was attributed to social environmental factors (meso-level); physical conditions of the environment provided no explanation. Our findings should, however, not be taken as a denial of the importance of the physical environment (exo-level). This study was conducted in the Netherlands, a country with a high density, abundant sport facilities and a supportive sport climate. Moreover, variety of sport facilities nearby proved significant in explaining an individual’s monthly sport participation. To conclude, this study enhances our understanding of the rural–urban divide in sport participation and highlights the importance of especially meso-level features in addition to the socio-demographics. It thus may inform policymakers to critically assess sport promotion policies.
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