4917.0 - Sport and social capital, Australia, 2010  
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Contents >> Data sources >> Sources of data on participation in Sport


The ABS conducts two surveys that collect information on participation in sport and physical recreation. These are the Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation Activities topic of the Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS) and the General Social Survey (GSS).

The General Social Survey (GSS) was conducted in 2006 and 2010 to provide information about various aspects of wellbeing and how these may relate to each other. This was in response to the recognition that social indicators related to families, health, education, employment, housing, individual opportunities, outcomes and wider social networks may be related and that the application of social policy is becoming less sectorial. The survey was also conducted to provide information that could be used as benchmark indicators of social capital. Participation in sport and physical recreation was included as a social indicator and information from this question is the common denominator in this report.

Caution should be used when comparing data from the 2006 and 2010 GSS. Differences in the question wording have led to an increase in the number of people who participated in sport or physical recreation. In 2006 people were asked to think about any physical activities or sports that they participated in, and of those activities, whether they were for sport, exercise or physical recreation. The approach in 2010 was different in that people were asked to think about any physical activities or sports that they participated in for sport, and then any physical activities or sports that the respondents participated in for exercise or physical recreation. By asking people to think about their activities separately, as a sport and then for exercise or recreation, an increased number of people participating in physical activity have been captured.

While the scope, content and data collection were largely the same in both collections, the sample design and weighting procedures were not. The sample sizes differed between the 2006 and 2010 GSS. In 2010, the number of fully or adequately responding households achieved in the survey was 15,028 compared with approximately 13,375 for the 2006 cycle. The 2010 cycle had a larger initial sample size (19,576 possible dwellings) compared with the 2006 initial sample size (17,700 possible dwellings). In addition, the 2006 GSS experienced higher rates of sample loss because there were more households with no residents in scope for the survey or where dwellings proved to be vacant, under construction or derelict, and a higher rate of survey non-response from eligible households. These differences in the sample size for 2010 and 2006 should be considered when comparing results.

For the 2010 cycle, a change in sample design was adopted to obtain more observations of people exhibiting multiple disadvantage, to provide a richer dataset of the characteristics of this subpopulation. The sample design involved using Census 2006 data to target areas with higher concentrations of households experiencing multiple disadvantage. To compensate for over sampling, the weighting process included additional benchmarks. These differences in the sample design for 2010 and 2006 should be considered when comparing results.

Differences in methodology between the GSS and the MPHS mean that it is not possible to compare the overall participation rates from the 2009-10 MPHS with the 2006 and 2010 GSS. There were differences in the question wording and the collection method. The MPHS question asked about physical activities or sports participated in during the last 12 months and then prompted the respondent as to whether participation was for sport, exercise or recreation. The GSS asked about any physical activities or sports participated in as either a participant or some other role such as a coach, referee or official. The MPHS was conducted, in most cases, as a telephone survey, whereas the GSS was conducted as a face-to-face interview. The GSS also collects information from people aged 18 years and over, whereas the MPHS collects information from people aged 15 years and over.

It is also important to note that respondents in both the MPHS and the GSS were asked about a range of social topics in addition to participation in sport and physical recreation. The number and subject of the topics was different in both surveys and the different context for the participation questions may have had some impact on the responses provided by respondents in each of the surveys.

As a result, care must be taken when comparing results from the MPHS and GSS, as the methodology used in each of these surveys differed and this may affect the validity of comparisons. This report only contains data from the 2010 GSS, as this survey included more questions relating to the social wellbeing indicators.

The 2010 GSS found that 12.5 million Australians aged 18 years and over participated in sport or physical recreation in the 12 months prior to interview, representing a participation rate of 74%.

The full list of data items collected in the GSS are included in the ABS (2011b) General Social Survey: User Guide, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 4159.0.55.002). A subset of these has been chosen for inclusion in this report and are listed in the Appendix. These primarily relate to network qualities and types but also include information on levels of trust in the community, involvement in community activities and affairs, familial and fraternal contact and support networks. Information on feelings of safety, volunteering, access to transport and health status along with some basic demographic information are also provided.

The information analysed for this report is available separately as a data spreadsheet as part of this publication. All data in the tables and graphs presented in this report are from the General Social Survey 2010.

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