Commuting and wellbeing in London: The roles of commute mode and local public transport connectivity

Samuel Chng, Mathew White, Charles Abraham, Stephen Skippon
Preventive Medicine 2016, 88: 182-8

OBJECTIVES: To explore the relationships between commute mode, neighbourhood public transport connectivity and subjective wellbeing.

METHOD: The study used data on 3630 commuters in London from wave two of Understanding Society (2010/11). Multivariate linear regressions were used to investigate how commute mode and neighbourhood public transport connectivity were associated with subjective wellbeing for all London commuters and for public transport commuters only. Subjective wellbeing was operationalized in terms of both a positive expression (life satisfaction measured by a global single-item question) and a more negative expression (mental distress measured by the General Health Questionnaire). Logistic regression was also used to explore the predictors of public transport over non-public transport commutes.

RESULTS: After accounting for potentially-confounding area-level and individual-level socioeconomic and commute-related variables, only walking commutes (but not other modes) were associated with significantly higher life satisfaction than car use but not with lower mental distress, compared to driving. While better public transport connectivity was associated with significantly lower mental distress in general, train users with better connectivity had higher levels of mental distress. Moreover, connectivity was unrelated to likelihood of using public transport for commuting. Instead, public transport commutes were more likely amongst younger commuters who made longer distance commutes and had comparatively fewer children and cars within the household.

CONCLUSION: The findings highlight the heterogeneity of relationships between commute mode, public transport connectivity and subjective wellbeing and have implications for intervention strategies and policies designed to promote commuting behaviour change.

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