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Ditch the car and feel better, says commuting study

'Leaves on the line', 'wrong type of snow', severe delays, overcrowding, penalty fares - taking public transport to work would, on the face of it, appear quite stressful.

But a new study has found the opposite. 'Active' commuters who shun the car and walk, cycle or take public transport to work, show improved psychological wellbeing.

They felt better able to concentrate and were less under strain than if they drove.

Ditch the car

'The longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological wellbeing,' said Adam Martin, lead researcher from the University of East Anglia team that studied 18 years of data on almost 18,000 18- to 65-year-old British commuters.

'You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress,' he said.

'But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up.'

'People feel better when they have a longer walk to work.'

Making the switch

The longitudinal study was able to investigate the effect of changing modes of transport for a commute.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of the sample group said that they took the car, 13 per cent walked, 11 per cent took public transport and 3 per cent cycled.

When commuters swapped the car for a bike or to go by foot, they were found to be happier after making the change.

Mr Martin said that if new projects 'were to encourage commuters to walk or cycle more regularly, then there could be noticeable mental health benefits'.

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