Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Yes, Ditching the Car for Your Commute to Work Improves Well-Being

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Yes, Ditching the Car for Your Commute to Work Improves Well-Being

Article excerpt

When commuters stop driving and start walking or cycling to work, their psychological well-being tends to significantly improve, according to a British study published Monday in the journal Preventive Medicine.

The study also reports a similar finding for commuters who ditch their car for public transport.

"These results appear to suggest that avoiding car driving may be beneficial to wellbeing," write the study's authors. "This view complements existing evidence of a negative association between driving and physical health and is consistent with the hypothesis that car driving (a non-passive travel mode that requires constant concentration) can give rise to boredom, social isolation and stress."

The results also suggest that psychological well-being should be considered when government officials are doing cost-benefit assessments of transportation policies, say the researchers.

A before-and-after comparison

It's long been known that moderate-intensity walking, cycling and other physical activity is associated with both physical and psychological well-being, but most of that research has involved activity not undertaken while traveling to and from work.

Earlier this year, a study conducted by another group of British researchers at the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that any type of long commute to work (but particularly those by bus) increased anxiety and lowered people's sense of happiness and being satisfied with life. That study also made the controversial finding that active commuting (walking or cycling) had a negative impact on those psychological factors when the active commute was less than 30 minutes.

The new study, however, does not compare the well-being of commuters who are using different modes of travel at a particular moment in time. Instead, it looks at people's psychological well- being before and after they switch from car travel to active travel or public transportation.

For the new study, health economists from the University of East Anglia and the University of York examined data collected from almost 18,000 commuters who were participating in the ongoing British Household Panel Survey, an annual survey of adults aged 18 to 65. …

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