Researchers suggest that people who walk or cycle to work have noticeable mental health benefits, when compared to people who commute via cars.
The physical health advantages of cycling and walking have already been documented by many researchers. A study conducted by the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) reveals that walking or cycling to work also improves the mental wellbeing of a person.
The study also revealed that commuting to work in public transportation than driving also benefits people psychologically. Adam Martin of the UEA, who is the lead researcher of the study, revealed that many people think that issues related to public transport such as disturbance in services and crowd may cause stress to many people. However, public transportation also gives an opportunity for people to relax, read and socialize.
The team of researchers studied data of around 18,000 commuters in the UK collected over 18 years. The researchers looked at many aspects such as psychological health, which included feelings of unhappiness, sleepless nights, worthlessness, and more. They also accounted for many factors that affect the wellbeing of a person including, having children, income, relationships and more. The research also considered the commuting time to work.
The researchers also observed people who switched from driving to either walking or cycling and found that their mental health improved after the switch.
Martin reveals that their study found that people who walked or cycled to work had better psychological wellbeing when compared to people who drove. Martin also claims that a longer driving distance had worse effects on the mental health of a person.
"This research shows that if new projects such as London's proposed segregated cycleways, or public transport schemes such as Crossrail, were to encourage commuters to walk or cycle more regularly, then there could be noticeable mental health benefits," says Martin.
2011 Census data of Wales and England reveals that about 67 percent of people use their cars as their main mode of traveling to work. Around 18 percent commuters take advantage of public transportation services, about 11 percent walk and only over 3 percent cycle to work.
The findings of the study are important as it will encourage people to walk, cycle or take public transport, which will be beneficial for the physical as well as mental health of an individual.