Objective: This study aimed to investigate how much households with dependent children spend on active recreation (physical activity) compared with screen-based (sedentary) recreation, according to their household socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.
Methods: The study analysed data from the 2003–04 Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey, which collected information on household expenditure from a representational cross-section of private dwellings across Australia.
Results: In 2003–04, Australian households with dependent children spent an average of 1.5% and 3.3% of their weekly disposable income on active and screen recreation respectively, and 24.9% of their total active and screen recreation expenditure on active recreation. There was significant variation across household characteristics, with higher income and socioeconomic status households, and families with more than one dependent child more likely to spend a larger portion of their recreation budget on active recreation instead of screen recreation.
Conclusions: Overall, Australian families spend more money on screen recreation items than they do on active recreation, although there are strong economic and cultural gradients in their patterns of expenditure on both active and screen recreation. This suggests that while the costs of active recreation may be a barrier to participation for some families, there are also social and cultural values influencing recreational choices.
Implications: For the first time, specific information on Australian families’ expenditure on active and screen recreation is available. These results contribute to identifying cultural and economic barriers influencing families’ health-related behaviours and their participation in organised physical activity.