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4156.0.55.001 - Perspectives on Sport, May 2009  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/05/2009   
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FEATURE ARTICLE 3: WOMEN IN SPORT



Regular participation in sport and physical activity has been demonstrated to result in significant health benefits (Endnote 1 and 2). Literature in this area shows that there are positive physiological, psychological and social changes associated with physical activity. Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity, to name a few. It is also argued that sport and recreation can provide social benefits through increased social interaction and integration.

Physical inactivity can result in adverse health outcomes and greater health care costs (Endnote 1). Being physically active is of clear benefit in six of the seven current Australian national health priorities - arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions; cancer control; cardiovascular health; diabetes; injury prevention and control; and mental health (Endnote 3).

In light of this, governments at all levels have become increasingly active in encouraging people to adopt physical activities as a regular part of their lifestyle. In Australia we have seen several initiatives to increase participation in sports and physical activities over the past few years. The federal government currently has several initiatives to encourage Australians to lead healthy and active lives, such as the national 'Measure Up' campaign (Endnote 4). Each state and territory government also has state-based campaigns.

A key reason for undertaking surveys relating to participation in sport and physical activity is to provide government and the community with statistics to inform policy and resource planning for sport and physical activity programs, infrastructure and administrative support. Government agencies also require detailed data about the characteristics of participants in exercise, sport or physical recreation activities, as this can also inform the planning and development of relevant programs. For example, it may be important to understand in which activities women participate in order to develop particular programs for women. Businesses can also use the demographic characteristics of participation to better understand their particular market.

This article focusses on particular aspects of women's participation and involvement in sport.


PARTICIPATION IN SPORT AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

A sport participant in this article is defined as a player, competitor or person who physically undertakes the activity. Persons involved solely in a non-playing role, such as a coach or referee, are not included. Information was most recently collected regarding the characteristics of persons aged 15 years and over who participated in sport and physical recreation in the 2005-06 Multi-Purpose Household Survey and the data was published in Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4177.0). The survey will be conducted again in 2009-10, with the results published in early 2011.

Nearly two thirds (66% or 5.3 million) of females aged 15 years and over reported that they had participated in sport and physical recreation at least once during the 12 months prior to interview in 2005-06. Males showed a similar participation rate of 66% (5.2 million).

The number of females participating in non-organised activities (4.4 million or 54%) was more than double that for participation in organised activities (2.1 million or 26%).

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By type of participation

Males
Females
Number
Participation rate
Number
Participation rate
'000
%
'000
%

Total organised participation
2 285.3
29.0
2 113.4
26.0
Total non-organised participation
4 196.5
53.2
4 407.7
54.3
Total participation(a)
5 205.7
66.0
5 336.4
65.7

(a) Components do not add to totals as some persons may have participated in both types of participation.
Source: Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4177.0)



SPORTS AND PHYSICAL RECREATION ACTIVITIES

The majority of female participants (58% or 3.1 million) undertook just one sport or physical recreation activity, with 25% participating in two activities and 17% participating in three or more activities.

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By number of sports or physical recreation activities participated in and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and physical recreation—By number of sports or physical recreation activities participated in and sex


The most popular sport or physical recreation activity for females in 2005-06 was walking for exercise, with 2.7 million females (33%) participating in this activity. This accounted for almost half of all female participants, with the majority participating in this as a non-organised activity. This activity was also the most popular activity for males, however, it accounted for only a quarter of all male participants, with a participation rate of 17% (or 1.3 million).

Aerobics/fitness was the second most popular activity for both males and females, but this activity was dominated by females as well, with 16% of females (or 1.3 million) participating compared with 9.4% of males (or 744,500).

The top ten sports and physical recreation activities participated in by females in 2005-06 are in the table below.

Female participants, Top ten sports and physical recreation activities

Activity
Number
Participation rate
Proportion of participants
Rank
'000
%
%

1
Walking for exercise
2 659.7
32.8
49.8
2
Aerobics/fitness
1 271.5
15.7
23.8
3
Swimming
814.0
10.0
15.3
4
Netball
387.5
4.8
7.3
5
Tennis
379.4
4.7
7.1
6
Cycling
320.7
3.9
6.0
7
Bush walking
271.4
3.3
5.1
8
Running
255.4
3.1
4.8
9
Yoga
248.7
3.1
4.7
10
Golf
179.9
2.2
3.4

Source: Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4177.0)


Interestingly, eight of the top ten sports for females also make up the top ten sports for males. Those that are not in the top ten for males are yoga and netball. Females had higher participation rates in netball (4.8%) than males (0.6%), yoga (3.1% compared with 0.3%) and dancing (2.2% compared with 0.6%). Information on participation in more individual sports and physical activities can be found in the publication, Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4177.0).

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By top ten sports and physical recreation activities and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and physical recreation—By top ten sports and physical recreation activities and sex



CHARACTERISTICS OF FEMALE PARTICIPANTS

Of the 5.3 million female participants, almost half (48% or 2.6 million) participated regularly in sport and physical recreation activities. Regular participation was defined as participation undertaken more than twice a week in the 12 months prior to interview.

More females than males participated regularly in sport and physical recreation, with participation rates respectively of 32% and 27%. A detailed definition of the participation regularity categories can be found in the publication Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4177.0).

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By regularity of participation and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and physical recreation—By regularity of participation and sex


Participation rates for females peaked at 25-34 years (74%) and then declined with increasing age, with the lowest participation rate reported by females aged 65 and over (48% or 652,900).

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By age and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and physical recreation—By age and sex


Just over a third (34% or 2.8 million) of the female population undertook sport or physical recreation activities for a total of 105 times or more in the previous twelve months.


EMPLOYMENT

Employed females had a higher participation rate (74%) compared to those who were unemployed (64%) and those not in the labour force (56%). There was a similar trend for males.

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By labour force status and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and physical recreation—By labour force status and sex



HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION

The highest participation rate was reported by females living in group households (73%), followed by females in couple families with dependent children and couple only families (70% and 69% respectively). Females living in multiple family households with dependent children had the lowest participation rate (44%).

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By household composition(a) and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and physical recreation—By household composition(a) and sex



SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDEX

The ABS compiles the index of relative socio-economic disadvantage, one of five Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA). The SEIFA index numbers are based on the characteristics of all persons living within a defined area, not the socio-economic situation of a particular individual. The indexes are intended to determine the level of social and economic wellbeing of these areas. Further information is available in Information Paper: An Introduction to Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), 2006 (cat, no. 2039.0).

The index of relative socio-economic disadvantage includes attributes such as low income, low educational attainment, high unemployment and jobs in relatively unskilled occupations. The lower the value of this index, the greater the average level of disadvantage experienced by residents of the area.

A relationship between the rate of participation in sport and physical recreation and the level of socio-economic disadvantage in the repondents area of residence can be seen, with the participation rate increasing with each successive quintile in the index. Of the females living in areas in the lowest quintile of the index, 53% participated in sport and physical recreation, while of the females living in areas in the highest quintile, 76% participated. A similar relationship exists for male participation.

Participants, Sports and physical recreation - By index of relative socio-economic disadvantage and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and physical recreation—By index of relative socio-economic disadvantage and sex



AREA OF RESIDENCE

The highest participation rates for females were reported for the Australian Capital Territory (80%) and Western Australia (70%), while females living in the Northern Territory had the lowest rate of participation (56%).

Participants, Sports and Physical Recreation - By state or territory and sex
Graph: Participants, Sports and Physical Recreation—By state or territory and sex


There was very little difference between the participation rates of females living in capital cities and those living in the rest of the state (65% and 66% respectively).


WOMEN'S REASONS FOR PARTICIPATING IN SPORT AND PHYSICAL RECREATION

Those who participated in sports and physical recreation activities 13 times or more in the 12 month period prior to interview were asked their reasons for participating. This represented 4.9 million women. They were asked to list all the reasons they participated as well as the main reason for participating.

A variety of reasons for participating were reported by females when asked to list all motivators to participating. The majority participated for health/fitness reasons, with 86% of female participants citing this as one of their motivators. Almost half of female participants did so for enjoyment and 43% participated for well-being.

Participants (for 13 times or more), Sports and physical recreation - By all motivators and sex
Graph: Participants (for 13 times or more), Sports and physical recreation—By all motivators and sex


When asked about the main reason for participating, health/fitness and enjoyment once again were the primary reasons given by female participants, with 59% and 16% respectively indicating these reasons. More females than males indicated health/fitness and well-being as their main motivator, whereas more males than females indicated enjoyment and social and family reasons as their main motivator.

Participants (for 13 times or more), Sports and physical recreation - By main motivator and sex
Graph: Participants (for 13 times or more), Sports and physical recreation—By main motivator and sex



WOMEN'S REASONS FOR NOT PARTICIPATING IN SPORT AND PHYSICAL RECREATION

Reasons for non-participation were asked of people who did not participate in sports and physical recreation and those who participated only for 1-12 times in all activities in which they participated in the 12 months prior to interview. This represented 3.2 million females. They were asked to list all their reasons for non-participation as well as their main reason for not participating or having a low level of participation.

The most common reasons cited by females for not participating in sport and physical recreation were not interested (22%), insufficient time due to work/study (22%) and age/too old (21%).

Non-participants and low level participants, Sports and physical recreation - By all reasons for not participating (selected) and sex
Graph: Non-participants and low level participants, Sports and physical recreation – By all constraints (selected) and sex


When asked for the main reason for not participating, responses were similar. The most common main reasons cited by females for not participating were not interested, age/too old and insufficient time due to work/study, which were all reported by 18% of females.

More than twice the number of females than males (435,400 or 14% and 171,200 or 5% respectively) indicated insufficient time due to family commitments as the main reason for not participating or having a low level of participation.

Non-participants and low level participants, Sports and physical recreation - By selected main reason for not participating and sex
Graph: Non-participants and low level participants, Sports and physical recreation – By selected main constraint and sex



WOMEN AS SPECTATORS AT SPORTING EVENTS

Information was also collected regarding the characteristics of persons aged 15 years and over who attended sporting events as spectators (excluding junior and school sport) in the 2005-06 Multi-Purpose Household Survey. The results are published in Sports Attendance, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4174.0).

In 2005-06, 3 million females (37%) attended one or more sporting events in Australia. In comparison, 4.1 million males (52%) attended one or more sporting events.

The sports most popular with female spectators in Australia were Australian rules football, horse racing, rugby league and motor sports, in that order. These were also the top four most popular spectator sports for males, although in a slightly different order.

More females than males attended tennis and netball, with attendance rates of 2.0% and 1.6% respectively. Males had a higher attendance rate for all the other main sports.

Persons attending main sports(a), By sex
Graph: Persons attending main sports(a), By sex



FEMALE VOLUNTEERS FOR SPORT

The 2006 General Social Survey (GSS) collected information about the characteristics of volunteers aged 18 and over, including the type of organisation volunteered for and the voluntary work they did. The publication Volunteers in Sport, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4440.0.55.001) presents summary data on sport and physical recreation volunteers from the 2006 GSS.

There were 2.8 million female volunteers in 2006, of which 672,900 volunteered for sport and physical recreation organisations.

The volunteer rate for women for sport and physical recreation organisations was lower than that for men (8.7% compared with 14%). Additionally, females were less likely than males to volunteer for sport and physical recreation organisations for all age groups. The highest volunteer rate for females for sport and physical recreation organisations was in the age group 35-44 years (16%).

Sport and physical recreation volunteers, By age and sex
Graph: Sport and physical recreation volunteers, By age and sex


The main types of voluntary activities undertaken by female sport and physical recreation volunteers were coaching, refereeing and judging (23%); administration, clerical, recruitment and information management roles (20%); and preparing and serving food (19%).

Sport and physical recreation volunteers(a), By type of voluntary activity spent most time on

Total sport volunteers
Proportion
'000
%

Administration/clerical/recruitment/information management
132.0
19.6
Coaching/refereeing/judging
153.0
22.7
Fundraising/sales
108.0
16.0
Preparing/serving food
124.8
18.6
Transporting people/goods
*22.0
*3.3
Management/committee work/coordination
77.1
11.5
Teaching/instruction/providing information
41.2
6.1
Other
62.7
9.3

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
(a) Total volunteers are not shown as some persons may have been involved as a volunteer in more than one role and more than one organisation.
Source: ABS data available on request, General Social Survey, 2006



ENDNOTES

1. Bauman, A, Bellew, B, Vita, P, Brown, W and Owen, N 2002, Getting Australia Active, National Public Health Partnerships, Melbourne. Accessed 1 May 2009, <http://www.nphp.gov.au/publications/sigpah/gaa.pdf>

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2006, Australia's Health 2006, AIHW cat. no. AUS 73, AIHW, Canberra.

3. AIHW 2009, National Health Priority Areas, AIHW, Canberra. Accessed 1 May 2009, <http://www.aihw.gov.au/nhpa>

4. Commonwealth of Australia 2007, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra. Accessed 1 May 2009, <http://www.measureup.gov.au>


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