A study conducted by the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) has shown that cycling or walking to work is significantly better for people’s mental health than driving.
The study looked at 18,000 people aged 18 to 65 over a 10-year period. The researchers observed the mode of transport used for commuting, plus psychological elements like feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness, and sleepless nights. The study also took into account factors like income, having children, changing jobs or relationship changes.
Researchers found that those who had an ‘active commute’, cycling or walking to work, were under less strain and felt better able to concentrate than those who took public transport or drove.
Interestingly the length of the commute also played a part. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the longer the commute for car and van drivers, the poorer their psychological wellbeing. However, the longer the active commute, the more their psychological wellbeing increased.
An active commute is defined as using physical activity such as walking, running or cycling, as a way of traveling to and from work. There are many benefits already associated with this type of commuting, not least saving money and reducing your carbon footprint.
But what about cycling in traffic? Commuting by bike in towns and cities isn’t always the most pleasant of experiences, and previous studies like the Commuting and Personal Wellbeing Report published in February 2014 did report that cyclists were more anxious and less happy than other commuters. However, researchers in this new report indicate that this previous study was a snapshot in time that only viewed opinions of those questioned at that moment, rather than looking at the impact of commuting choices year on year over time.
The physical health benefits of cycling over public transport or driving are well known, including increased strength, cardio-vascular fitness and alertness. Now we can add more evidence that mental wellbeing is improved.
According to the 2011 census, 67% of the population commute by car, 11% take public transport, with 13% walking and 3% cycling. Getting more people out walking or on bikes can only be a good thing, increasing the health and wellbeing of the population. Schemes like the proposed segregated cycle super-highways in London may make cycling to work a much more attractive prospect to those who currently don’t fancy cycling in traffic.
What’s more, it’s likely that the more people start to commute by bike, the more others will want to too. A study conducted in 2013 in the US indicated that those who cycle or walk to work are more likely to influence others to do the same.
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