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The prevalence and correlates of sitting in European adults - a comparison of 32 Eurobarometer-participating countries

Jason A Bennie1, Josephine Y Chau1, Hidde P van der Ploeg12, Emmanuel Stamatakis13, Anna Do14 and Adrian Bauman1*

Author Affiliations

1 Prevention Research Collaboration, Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, 92-94 Parramatta Road, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia

2 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Centre, Van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam, Netherlands

3 Physical Activity Research Group (UCL-PARG), Division of Population Health, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 4th Floor, Holborn Union Building Archway (Whittington) Campus, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, UK

4 Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, New South Wales Ministry of Health, Locked Mail Bag 961, North Sydney, NSW 2059, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:107  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-107

Published: 11 September 2013



Prolonged sitting is an emerging health risk. However, multi-country comparative sitting data are sparse. This paper reports the prevalence and correlates of sitting time in 32 European countries.


Data from the Eurobarometer 64.3 study were used, which included nationally representative samples (n = 304-1,102) from 32 European countries. Face-to-face interviews were conducted during November and December 2005. Usual weekday sitting time was assessed using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (short-version). Sitting time was compared by country, age, gender, years of education, general health status, usual activity and physical activity. Multivariable-adjusted analyses assessed the odds of belonging to the highest sitting quartile.


Data were available for 27,637 adults aged 15–98 years. Overall, mean reported weekday sitting time was 309 min/day (SD 184 min/day). There was a broad geographical pattern and some of the lowest amounts of daily sitting were reported in southern (Malta and Portugal means 194–236 min/day) and eastern (Romania and Hungary means 191–276 min/day) European countries; and some of the highest amounts of daily sitting were reported in northern European countries (Germany, Benelux and Scandinavian countries; means 407–335 min/day). Multivariable-adjusted analyses showed adults with low physical activity levels (OR = 5.10, CI95 = 4.60-5.66), those with high sitting in their main daily activity (OR = 2.99, CI95 = 2.74-3.25), those with a bad/very bad general health state (OR = 1.87, CI95 = 1.63-2.15) and higher education levels (OR = 1.48, CI95 = 1.38-1.59) were more likely to be in the highest quartile of daily sitting time. Adults within Greece (OR = 2.91, CI95 = 2.51-3.36) and Netherlands (OR = 2.56, CI95 = 2.22-2.94) were most likely to be in the highest quartile. High-sit/low-active participants comprised 10.1% of the sample. Adults self-reporting bad/very bad general health state (OR = 4.74, CI95 = 3.97-5.65), those within high sitting in their main daily activities (OR = 2.87, CI95 = 2.52-3.26) and adults aged ≥65 years (OR = 1.53, CI95 = 1.19-1.96) and were more likely to be in the high-sit/low-active group.


Weekday sitting time and its demographic correlates varied considerably across European countries, with adults in north-western European countries sitting the most. Sitting is prevalent across Europe and merits attention by preventive interventions.

Sitting; Adults; Europe; Prevalence; Correlates