Societal and economic impacts of physical activity and sedentary behavior (SEPAS)


The SEPAS project examines the costs of physical inactivity to society, using accurate individual-level data for the first time in Finland. The project combines the population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 data and data collected from the registers on direct and indirect costs related to the use of health care services and absence from work.


Project information

Project duration


Funded by

Other Finnish

Funding amount

360 000 EUR

Project coordinator

Oulu Deaconess Institute Foundation sr./Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine

Contact information

Project leader

  • Professor
    Raija Korpelainen
  • Marko Korhonen

Contact person

Project description

Physical inactivity is a major public health and economic burden for the society. The costs due to physical inactivity have been estimated to be billions, but the direct and indirect real costs have not been previously assessed in Finland.

This multidisciplinary study utilizing both expertise in economics and physical activity epidemiology uniquely combines the population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 data and individual data collected from the registers on direct and indirect costs. The Northern Finland Birth Cohort data includes accelerometry measured physical activity and sedentary behavior data collected at one time point, as well as physical activity questionnaire data collected in several different years. The birth cohort data also provides extensive and long-term background information on northern Finnish citizens related to, for example, socio-economic status, health behavior, and genetics. The information collected from the Finnish population registers includes information related to e.g. the costs associated with the utilization of health care services and absence from work.

Work packages:

  • WP1: Project management and communication
  • WP2: Identification and evaluation of existing knowledge
  • WP3: Data collection and fusion
  • WP4: Economic analysis – Estimated costs of healthcare expenditure and indirect costs related to physical activity

Project results

The study provides evidence-based information for decision makers and promotion of physical activity and health at population level. The Scientific articles published in the project:

  • Kujala UM, Palviainen T, Pesonen P, Waller K, Sillanpää E, Niemelä M, Kangas M, Vähä-Ypyä H, Sievänen H, Korpelainen R, Jämsä T, Männikkö M, Kaprio J. Polygenic Risk Scores and Physical Activity. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Jul;52(7):1518–1524.
  • Farrahi V, Niemelä M, Kärmeniemi M, Puhakka S, Kangas M, Korpelainen R, Jämsä T. Correlates of physical activity behavior in adults: a data mining approach. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2020 Jul 23;17(1):94.
  • Kari JT, Pehkonen J, Tammelin TH, Hutri-Kähönen N, Raitakari OT. Childhood physical activity as a labor market investment. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2021 Jan;31(1):163-183.
  • Huikari S, Junttila H, Ala-Mursula L, Jämsä T, Korpelainen R, Miettunen J, Svento R, Korhonen M. Leisure-time physical activity is associated with socio-economic status beyond income - Cross-sectional survey of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study. Econ Hum Biol. 2021 May;41:100969.
  • Farrahi V, Kangas M, Walmsey R, Niemelä M, Kiviniemi A, Puukka K, Collings PJ, Korpelainen R, Jämsä T. Compositional associations of sleep and activities within the 24-h cycle with cardiometabolic health markers in adults. Med Sci Sports Exer. 2021 Feb; 53(2), 324–332.
  • Rissanen I, Ala-Mursula L, Nerg I, Korhonen M. Adjusted productivity costs of stroke by human capital and friction cost methods: a Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study. Eur J Health Econ. 2021 Jun;22(4):531-545.
  • Farrahi V, Kangas M, Kiviniemi A, Puukka K, Korpelainen R, Jämsä T. Accumulation patterns of sedentary time and breaks and their association with cardiometabolic health markers in adults. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2021; 31(7): 1489-1507.
  • Chong J, Tjurin P, Niemelä M, Jämsä T, Farrahi V. Machine-learning models for activity class prediction: A comparative study of feature selection and classification algorithms. Gait Posture. 2021; 89: 45-53.
  • Salokangas H, Böckerman P, Huikari S, Korhonen M, Korpelainen R, Svento R. Did the Finnish Great Depression Have a Silver Lining? The Effect of Unemployment on Long-Term Physical Activity. Economics and Human Biology. 2022; 46:101139  doi:
  • Kiema-Junes H, Saarinen A, Korpelainen R, Kangas M, Ala-Mursula L, Pyky R, Hintsanen M. More physical activity, more work engagement? A northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study. J Occup Environ Med. 2022; Mar 8. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000002530.
  • Rad SA, Kiwanuka F, Korpelainen R, Torkki P. Evidence base of economic evaluations  of workplace-based interventions reducing occupational sitting time: an integrative review. BMJ Open. 2022; Jun 30; 12(6):e060139.
  • Farrahi V, Rostami M, Dumuid D, Chastin S, Niemelä M, Korpelainen R, Jämsä T, Oussalah M. Joint Profiles of Sedentary Time and Physical Activity in Adults and their Associations with Cardiometabolic Health. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2022 Jul 27. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000003008
  • Kari J, Nerg I, Huikari S, Leinonen A-M, Nurkkala M, Farrahi V, Korpelainen R, Korhonen M. The individual-level productivity costs of physical inactivity. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Accepted 08/2022.