Biologic and epigenetic impact of commuting to work by car or using public transportation: a case-control study

Prev Med. Mar-Apr 2012;54(3-4):229-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.01.019. Epub 2012 Jan 31.


Background and aims: Commuting by public transportation (PT) entails more physical activity and energy expenditure than by cars, but its biologic consequences are unknown.

Methods: In 2009-2010, we randomly sampled New York adults, usually commuting either by car (n=79) or PT (n=101). Measures comprised diet and physical activity questionnaires, weight and height, white blood cell (WBC) count, C reactive protein, (CRP) gene-specific methylation (IL-6), and global genomic DNA methylation (LINE-1 methylation).

Results: Compared to the 101 PT commuters, the 79 car drivers were about 9 years older, 2 kg/m(2) heavier, more often non-Hispanic whites, and ate more fruits and more meats. The 2005 guidelines for physical activity were met by more car drivers than PT users (78.5% vs. 65.0%). There were no differences in median levels of CRP (car vs. PT: 0.6 vs. 0.5mg/dl), mean levels of WBC (car vs. PT: 6.7 vs. 6.5 cells/mm(3)), LINE-1 methylation (car vs. PT: 78.0% vs. 78.3%), and promoter methylation of IL-6 (car vs. PT: 56.1% vs. 58.0%).

Conclusions: PT users were younger and lighter than car drivers, but their commute mode did not translate into a lower inflammatory response or a higher DNA methylation, maybe because, overall, car drivers were more physically active.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA Methylation
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Epigenomics* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transportation* / methods
  • Transportation* / statistics & numerical data


  • C-Reactive Protein