Does active commuting improve psychological wellbeing? Longitudinal evidence from eighteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey

Prev Med. 2014 Dec:69:296-303. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.08.023. Epub 2014 Aug 23.


Objective: The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between active travel and psychological wellbeing.

Method: This study used data on 17,985 adult commuters in eighteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey (1991/2-2008/9). Fixed effects regression models were used to investigate how (i.) travel mode choice, (ii.) commuting time, and (iii.) switching to active travel impacted on overall psychological wellbeing and how (iv.) travel mode choice impacted on specific psychological symptoms included in the General Health Questionnaire.

Results: After accounting for changes in individual-level socioeconomic characteristics and potential confounding variables relating to work, residence and health, significant associations were observed between overall psychological wellbeing (on a 36-point Likert scale) and (i.) active travel (0.185, 95% CI: 0.048 to 0.321) and public transport (0.195, 95% CI: 0.035 to 0.355) when compared to car travel, (ii.) time spent (per 10minute change) walking (0.083, 95% CI: 0.003 to 0.163) and driving (-0.033, 95% CI: -0.064 to -0.001), and (iii.) switching from car travel to active travel (0.479, 95% CI: 0.199 to 0.758). Active travel was also associated with reductions in the odds of experiencing two specific psychological symptoms when compared to car travel.

Conclusion: The positive psychological wellbeing effects identified in this study should be considered in cost-benefit assessments of interventions seeking to promote active travel.

Keywords: Active commuting; Cycling; Health promotion; Longitudinal study; Physical activity; Walking; Wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Bicycling / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Transportation
  • United Kingdom
  • Walking / psychology*
  • Young Adult