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Active Citizens Worldwide report finds physical activity contributes over £800m in healthcare savings annually

Press release   •   Oct 11, 2019 08:00 BST

Physical activity and sport are directly contributing to healthcare savings, happiness,and mental wellbeing in cities across the world, according to a new report from the Active Citizens Worldwide network.

A global initiative established to help cities across the world achieve a step-change in physical activity levels for their citizens, Active Citizens Worldwide uses data and analytics to provide policymakers with increased knowledge and insight to help transform physical activity within their cities.

The findings, which draw on research and analysis from the cities of Auckland, London, Singapore and Stockholm conducted by leading global management consultancy, Portas Consulting, form part of the second Active Citizens Worldwide annual report, which was formally launched today (11 October 2019) at the Active Citizens Worldwide Conference in Singapore.

In London, data from the report showed important healthcare savings across a range of disease groups and improved mental wellbeing for more active Londoners.

London data showed:

  • Capital-wide, physical activity contributed to £835m in annual healthcare savings across ten disease groups; Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, Type II Diabetes, Breast Cancer, Endometrial Uterine Cancer, Colon Cancer, Osteoporosis, Dementia, Depression and Anxiety.
  • Physically active Londoners reported lower levels of anxiety than less-active Londoners (-1.6%) and higher level of self-rated happiness (4.8%).
  • Across the capital, Local Authority level expenditure on sport and physical activity declined for the fifth consecutive year, from £329m in 2013/14 to £253m in 2017/18, but the percentage of expenditure on physical activity for children and young people grew by around 2.7%

The 2018 Active Citizens Worldwide report started to quantify the positive impact of sport and physical activity on individuals’ health and wellbeing.

It showed that this impact extends beyond individuals, to communities and society more broadly, helping to mitigate some of the growing social challenges faced by cities.

However, participation in physical activity is in part driven by money, time and access – and hence the benefits of sport and physical activity are not shared equally. Unaddressed, this will only contribute to a widening of social inequality.

Now in its second year, Active Citizens Worldwide has gathered compelling evidence from its four member cities that sheds light on the complex systemic interplay between socio-economics, demographics, policy and physical activity.

This growth in understanding stands to enable cities to better enable all parts of society to participate in sport and physical activity and, in doing so, to create happier, healthier and wealthier cities.

Across the four cities, key findings from the second Active Citizens Worldwide report include:

Physical activity makes individuals happier and healthier, with significant wider benefits to the city:

  • Physically active individuals report that they are 6% happier, 28% more trusting of community, report 6% higher life satisfaction, and 14% lower psychological distress levels
  • Physical activity contributes an estimated US$14bn to the economy across Auckland, London, Singapore and Stockholm combined generating US$1.6bn in healthcare savings and US$0.5bn in productivity savings

However, sport and physical activity reflects social inequalities; across all four Active Citizens Worldwide cities, socio-demographic trends highlighted last year have been confirmed:

  • Well-off individuals are up to 1.7 times more likely to be active than those worse off
  • Men are more likely to be active than women
  • Inequality is often exacerbated by age - well-off individuals aged 25-49 are almost twice as likely to be active than those less well-off of the same age in Auckland.

Access to facilities plays a key role in addressing these inequalities:

  • In London and Singapore, there is a clear relationship between the availability of public facilities and levels of physical activity among the least well-off.
  • Across all cities, access to facilities is related to activity – with more active areas on average having up to 2.5x more facilities (public and private) than less active areas.

The report also shows that each physically active individual generates an average of US$1,900 in social value in a city in the Active Citizens Worldwide network.

Tim Copley, Director of Insight, Technology & Data – London Sport, said: 

“This year’s Active Citizens Worldwide Annual Report shows clearly the significant positive impact physical activity is having, not only here in London, but in cities in all parts of the world. 

"Physical activity and sport offer a clear opportunity to improve people’s lives, but it is vital that we work purposefully to ensure that people from every background and of every age are able to enjoy its many lifelong benefits.”

The full report is available here. 

About London Sport

London Sport aims to make London the most physically active city in the world. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org

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