There are many anecdotes about the joys of trading in a car for a bike, and now researchers in England are backing this idea with data. A study from the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research finds that people who switch from commuting by car to biking or walking improved their overall well-being.
Researchers examined data from 18,000 commuters in Britain, collected by the British Household Panel Survey. They looked at mental health indicators such as feelings of worthlessness, sleepless nights, the ability to face problems and unhappiness. People who walk or cycle to work reported better concentration and lower levels of stress, compared to people who drive a car.
The study controlled for a number of factors that also impact well-being, like income, relationship changes and switching jobs.
The researchers also found that people who use public transportation like buses and trains also experience less stress than drivers. A longer drive to work was associated with a more negative physiological impact.
This isn’t the first study to link bike commuting with happiness. Research based on data from the American Time Use Survey found that biking had the most positive impact on mood compared to other modes of transportation—although the study also found that the way we travel doesn’t impact our mood as much as other daily activities.
The authors of the new study, which was published today in Preventive Medicine, hope their research will be considered in city planning and infrastructure choices.