Evidence gaps and conclusions
4.1. The report provides a baseline review of equality characteristics across the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework from which progress can be monitored and it points to where further evidence gathering is required. This baseline review contributes to the development of the evidence base for policy to ensure that all parts of the population are benefitting from public investment in sport and complements parallel work being undertaken by sportscotland.
4.2. There are particular gaps in evidence in relation to several of the protected characteristics: Ethnicity and religion; Pregnancy and maternity and Sexual orientation and transgender. There is also a lack of evidence to support understanding of differences in opportunities and experiences in relation to differing types of disability.
4.3. Small numbers in the population, and consequently in national survey samples limits the data on opportunities and outcomes for minority ethnic groups, those identifying with non-Christian religions and by sexual orientation. The latter is further affected by issues around under-reporting. Pooling data allows for some analysis but may mask differences between important sub-groups. Qualitative evidence helps to support this evidence base.
4.4. Although data is available on disability across many of the indicators, the data does not distinguish between different types of disability and, therefore, it is not possible to determine if there are a range of experiences across the different sub-groups.
4.5. In addition to the gaps highlighted by protected characteristic, there were notable gaps identified for several of the indicators: Inactivity in children; Active travel to school; Attendance at leisure facilities and Elite sport.
4.6. Assessment of inactivity in children is a challenge as the issue of small numbers for many of the protected characteristics is compounded further by small numbers of children who are classed as inactive. A limited level of information is available by protected characteristics on active travel from the Sustrans survey and some further indications are possible on gender and SES influences by referring to a similar measure in the Scottish Household Survey. Similarly, although the measure for attendance at leisure facilities does not have information available by protected characteristic, information can be obtained from a measure in the Scottish Household survey.
4.7. The one stand out area where wider evidence sources had to be substantially drawn upon to make any comment about protected characteristics was for elite sport. It is anticipated that the equalities research currently being undertaken by sportscotland will help go some way to address a gap in the evidence here.
4.8. One further gap worth highlighting is in relation to data on trends. Although this review is intended as a baseline from which to take forward monitoring of progress on inequalities across the Active Scotland Outcomes, some data on trends (already published) have been possible to present which add to our current understanding of progress to date. Further analysis should be possible for a number of the indicators from existing data and it is anticipated that this will be explored.
4.9. Available data and evidence indicate that there are differences in equality of opportunity and outcome between those with and without each of the protected characteristics across all of the Active Scotland outcomes. Inequalities by socio-economic status are also observable across the outcomes, leading to an overall conclusion that work to address inequality is required on all fronts as the SG and its partners develop policies and programmes in pursuit of achieving the Active Scotland outcomes.
4.10. Although there is evidence of inequalities for many of the protected characteristics, the data demonstrates a particularly marked difference in measures of physical activity opportunity and participation by age and disability. This highlights a need to pay particular attention to ensuring initiatives are well targeted to ensure maintenance of activity through life and into old age and suitable measures are taken to ensure those with limiting conditions want to and can take up physical activities and remain active.
4.11. Marked differences were also noted for measures of socioeconomic status, however, the relationships are somewhat more complicated to unravel. There is a clear disparity in sports participation rates in both adults and children with those on lower incomes, living in more deprived areas and with lower levels of education much less likely to participate. To some extent the lack of activity gained from sports participation is offset in children by other forms of activity such as higher levels of active transport to school and little difference in active play. It is perhaps of note that these activities have no costs involved.
4.12. It is of concern that the trend in children has been for increasing inequality in sports participation by socioeconomic status. Setting good habits in childhood is important for physical activity behaviour in adulthood, where leisure time sports participation becomes more of an important contribution to total physical activity than is perhaps the case in childhood.
4.13. Gender inequality in physical activity is often highlighted as important and the data does demonstrate its existence, however, it did not appear to be as marked as for age, disability and SES and there are encouraging signs that in teenagers, at least, the gender gap is narrowing. However, there is still a marked inequality in sports participation that should not be ignored.
4.14. Walking is an important leveller of inequalities. When walking participation is not included in sports and exercise participation figures, inequalities between groups are generally much wider. But, although walking is important in helping to reduce inequalities associated with physical activity, there are still inequalities evident in both recreational walking and active travel to school, most notably for those with disabilities. This group also feel less safe walking after dark in their neighbourhood and are less likely to report having a usable greenspace nearby.
4.15. SES has a complicated relationship with walking, on the one hand those with lower SES walk less recreationally (an activity of choice) but more for active transport to school, which may be more of a necessity. Where choice is concerned this may be influenced by other environmental factors and it is of note that those on lower SES are less likely to perceive a usable greenspace nearby and feel less safe walking in their local area after dark.
4.16. Each protected characteristic has been looked at in turn, but the point has been made that an individual could have more than one of these characteristics, i.e. be female, elderly on a low income and from an ethnic minority background. Also, having a disability is associated with higher likelihood of being in relative poverty, as is being from a minority ethnic (non-white) group. Many health and lifestyle factors found to have a negative relationship with achieving physical activity recommendations have been shown to be more likely to be present in those in lower socioeconomic groups, for example obesity, smoking, poor mental and physical health. Such interactions between the different characteristics is complex and has not been explored in any depth in this review. Analysis on interactions in general and the implications for equality in physical activity is lacking and would benefit from further research. The compounding nature of such interactions should be born in mind when considering who the key target groups are for initiatives to reduce inequalities.
Email: Justine Geyer