Active NZ: Updating the Participation Landscape - The New Zealand Participation Survey 2022

Active NZ: Updating the Participation Landscape
01 Aug 2023


This report focuses on participation in play, active recreation, and sport among young people and adults in 2022. Drawn from the Active NZ survey, it uses data collected during 2022 from 4,015 young people and 15,118 adults.

This report explores selected results from 2022 which continue to highlight inequities in play, active recreation, and sport by age, gender, ethnicity, deprivation, and disability.

During 2022, disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic observed in 2021 continued. This – along with the introduction of conditional incentives for rangatahi who completed the survey – means the participation landscape differs from earlier years of the Active NZ survey. Results must be considered in this context.

Conditional incentives were introduced to improve responses from rangatahi. While successful, this initiative appears to have encouraged a stronger response from those who are less engaged with being active and previously less inclined to complete the survey. While the sample is arguably now more reflective of a broader range of young people, this has influenced some of the findings.


Results have been drawn from two separate surveys and datasets: one for young people aged 5 to 17 and one for adults aged 18-plus. Commentary about differences between young people and adults is based on observations rather than statistical testing between the two datasets.

Within the two datasets, reported differences between the total result and subgroups are statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level, unless noted. Significance testing means we can be highly confident that any differences reported are not random variations due to carrying out a survey among a sample of the population rather than a population census.

Knowing a difference is statistically significant does not mean the difference is important. While all statistically significant differences are shown in the figures and tables in this report, the commentary focuses on the significant differences that are meaningful.

The one exception to this reporting of meaningful statistically significant differences is the inclusion of results by self-identified ethnicity. Throughout this report, non-significant changes in participation and attitudes are described for ethnic groups. This aims to highlight differences in participation and significant attitudes for ethnic groups for whom Sport NZ has distinct strategies or programmes, including those implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data tables accompanying the report contain all base sizes and highlight all statistically significant differences at the 95 percent confidence level. Please note, in some cases, a significant difference is reported between two numbers that appear to be the same and/or no significant difference is reported when it may appear there should be one. This is due to rounding and variation in sample sizes.

Key Results

Overall participation

In general, young people are more active than adults. In 2022:

  1. Ninety-two percent of young people participated each week compared with 73 percent of adults
  2. On average, young people spent more than twice the amount of time as adults participating each week (10.6 hours compared with 4.6 hours)
  3. Young people also participated in more than twice the number of sports and activities than adults (4.7 young people, compared with 1.8 adults)
  4. A similar proportion of adults and young people met the physical activity guidelines.
  5. Fifty-six percent of young people spent 7-plus hours being active each week and 58 percent of adults spent 2.5-plus hours being active.

By age

  1. Tamariki are more active than rangatahi, largely driven by the drop in the four main participation statistics for rangatahi between ages 15 and 17 (weekly participation, average time spent in weekly participation, average number of sports and activities participated in each week, and the proportion meeting the physical activity guidelines).
  2. Tamariki are most active between ages 8 and 11, as measured on the four main participation statistics.
  3. Participation in competitive sports and activities is highest among older tamariki, with lower participation rates observed for older rangatahi. Participation in non-competitive sports and activities is consistent across young people aged 5 to 14 and again lower among older rangatahi.
  4. Young tamariki spend most of their active time in informal participation, especially play. As children grow older, their informal participation declines and is counterbalanced by greater participation in organised activity between ages 8 and 11. Between ages 15 and 17 organised and informal participation drops.
  5. Sixty-three percent of young people want to increase their participation. This appetite is strongest among rangatahi between ages 12 and 14 and especially females in this age group. The main barriers to increasing participation among young people are a preference for other activities, being too busy, and a lack of energy or motivation.
  6. The proportion of adults participating each week is stable until 75-plus when fewer participate each week, in fewer sports and activities but continue to spend the same amount of time as all adults.
  7. Time spent in weekly participation peaks between ages 18 and 24 and 65 and 74, with the number of sports and activities participated in each week also being higher between ages 18 and 24 and stable up until 75-plus.
  8. Most adults would like to increase their participation. This is particularly the case between ages 18 and 49 when more than 85 percent would like to do more. The main barrier to additional participation among adults is ‘other commitments taking priority’, especially between ages 35 and 49.

By gender

  1. A gender gap can be seen in time spent being active: males spend more time than females being active throughout their lifespan. While this gap first appears among young tamariki, it remains until late adulthood and only narrows among adults aged 75-plus.
  2. Females aged 18 to 24 are more motivated to increase their participation than males of the same age, but this gap closes among older adults.
  3. Females perceive additional barriers to increased participation. Specifically, females are more likely than males to view being tired, a lack of motivation and expense as barriers to their participation, especially between ages 18 and 24.

By ethnicity

  1. Across all young people, Māori males spend the most time being active, while Asian females spend the least. This pattern extends into adulthood.
  2. Asian young people and adults are more likely to want to increase their participation, as are Pacific adults. Among adults, European and Māori females are more likely to want to increase their level of activity.
  3. For Pacific and Asian adults, being unable to afford their preferred sports and activities is more of a barrier than for all adults.

By deprivation

  1. Young people and adults from high deprivation areas have lower levels of participation than young people and adults from low deprivation areas. Further, young people and adults from high deprivation areas spend less time each week being active.
  2. No differences can be seen in appetite to increase participation by deprivation for young people and adults.
  3. For young people and adults from high deprivation areas, ‘other commitments taking priority’ is less of a barrier to participation than for those in low deprivation areas.
  4. Barriers for young people from high deprivation areas are more likely to be a perceived lack of others to participate with and affordability. For adults from high deprivation areas, struggles with motivation and a lack of equipment are the most common prominent barriers.

By disability

  1. Disabled young people and adults are less likely to participate each week. Time spent being active is comparable between disabled and non-disabled tamariki, however, the gap broadens over their lifespan.
  2. Disabled young people are more likely to want to increase their participation compared with non-disabled. There is no significant difference in desire to increase participation between disabled and non-disabled adults.
  3. Disabled young people and adults are more likely to have ‘too tired’, ‘a lack of motivation’ and ‘a lack of fitness’ as barriers to increasing their participation.
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