Article Text

Estimating the global economic benefits of physically active populations over 30 years (2020–2050)
  1. Marco Hafner1,
  2. Erez Yerushalmi2,
  3. Martin Stepanek3,4,
  4. William Phillips1,
  5. Jack Pollard5,
  6. Advait Deshpande1,
  7. Michael Whitmore1,
  8. Francois Millard6,
  9. Shaun Subel6,
  10. Christian van Stolk1
  1. 1 RAND Europe, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK
  2. 2 Birmingham City Business School, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Charles University, Institute of Economic Studies, Praha, Praha, Czech Republic
  4. 4 Vitality Corporate Services Limited, London, London, UK
  5. 5 Health Economics Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  6. 6 Vitality Group, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Mr Marco Hafner, RAND Europe, Cambridge CB4 1YG, UK; mhafner{at}


Objectives We assess the potential benefits of increased physical activity for the global economy for 23 countries and the rest of the world from 2020 to 2050. The main factors taken into account in the economic assessment are excess mortality and lower productivity.

Methods This study links three methodologies. First, we estimate the association between physical inactivity and workplace productivity using multivariable regression models with proprietary data on 120 143 individuals in the UK and six Asian countries (Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Sri Lanka). Second, we analyse the association between physical activity and mortality risk through a meta-regression analysis with data from 74 prior studies with global coverage. Finally, the estimated effects are combined in a computable general equilibrium macroeconomic model to project the economic benefits of physical activity over time.

Results Doing at least 150 min of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, as per lower limit of the range recommended by the 2020 WHO guidelines, would lead to an increase in global gross domestic product (GDP) of 0.15%–0.24% per year by 2050, worth up to US$314–446 billion per year and US$6.0–8.6 trillion cumulatively over the 30-year projection horizon (in 2019 prices). The results vary by country due to differences in baseline levels of physical activity and GDP per capita.

Conclusions Increasing physical activity in the population would lead to reduction in working-age mortality and morbidity and an increase in productivity, particularly through lower presenteeism, leading to substantial economic gains for the global economy.

  • economics
  • physical activity
  • statistics

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  • Contributors MH and EY were co-chief investigators. MS contributed to the economic modelling and helped to rewrite the original report into a journal article. WP, JP, AD, MW, FM, SS and CvS contributed to various parts of the report and made revisions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was supported by Discovery Ltd, South Africa.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on request.