Walk to work and improve your mental wellbeing

The question of whether the method of transport you use to get to work affects your mental wellbeing is bound to grab attention[1] and this has certainly been the case with the study by Adam Martin, Yevgeniy Goryakin and Marc Suhrcke[2] from the Health Economics Group at the University of East Anglia.


An ONS study[3] published in February 2014 found that those who walked, cycled or took the bus to work had lower personal wellbeing than car commuters. A rather different result is reported by Martin et al. Their analysis used 18 years of data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), containing repeated observations for individuals of commuting mode and travel time and psychological symptoms. The longitudinal data gave them a stronger basis for causal inference than previous studies, as they could not only control for measured differences between individuals that could confound the relationship between commute mode and wellbeing (these were also taken into account by ONS), but also unmeasured differences (e.g. preferences for travel) and they could assess how transitions between commute modes affect wellbeing.  Hence their work can be considered the most robust evidence to date on the relationship between commuting and wellbeing.

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Reflections on our end of project seminar

Back on 16 June 2014 we held an end of project event at the Department of Transport (DfT) in London. DfT was a partner in our project (a ‘policy user’), helping to direct the project, and we were delighted that it agreed to host the end of project event. It was actually two events. First of all, there was an hour-long high-level policy briefing with DfT staff. Then in the afternoon we held a fuller seminar, open to those from outside DfT. There were about 30 people in attendance at each with the afternoon audience including university academics, local authority transport practitioners and transport and marketing consultants.

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Mobility Biographies and Mobility Socialisation

Kiron attended the Mobility Biographies and Mobility Socialisation workshop in Dortmund in February 2014.

The life stages of man

The workshop demonstrated a strong body of research in Austria, Germany and Switzerland which is looking at how travel behaviour evolves over the life course and is affected by social and residential context. In particular, a collaborative project involving universities in Dortmund, Frankfurt and Zurich is using biographical data collected for family members of three generations to obtain unique insights on locational and mobility decisions and their relationship to events over the life course and how these vary between the generations.

A write-up of the event can be downloaded here.

Lifecourse Transitions: Opportunities for Sustainable Lifestyles?

Kiron presented at the ‘Lifecourse Transitions: Opportunities for Sustainable Lifestyles?‘ event hosted by the University of Surrey in July.

The workshop brought academics from different disciplines together to share their experience researching the influence of lifecourse transitions (LCTs) on sustainable lifestyles. With a strong presence of sociologists, attention was given to developing a richer conceptualising of habits and LCTs. A prevailing theme was the question of how much agency individuals have over behaviour (or practices) when they undergo LCTs given the structures within which they live. The workshop inspired those present to refine how they think about LCTs and use this to allow richer understandings to be gained on the behaviours/practices they study.

A write-up of the event can be downloaded here.

Key Findings

Kiron, Ben and Steve presented the final findings from the project at a seminar hosted by the Department for Transport (DfT) on Monday 16th June. The event was well attended by practitioners, researchers and representatives from the DfT and generated a stimulating discussion about the implications for policy and future research.

The presentations from the seminar can be downloaded here.

We’ve also produced two leaflets summarising the key findings on car ownership and commuting behaviour. These are now available for download under outputs.

We’ll be publishing further papers from the study in the coming months and if you’d like to join our mailing list to find out when new material is available, please get in touch with Ben at ben4.clark@uwe.ac.uk.

End of Project Event

We are running our free end of project event in June. Come along to find out more about when and why people become susceptible to travel behaviour changes. To register please email ben4.clark@uwe.ac.uk.

Date: 16th June 2014 from 1pm

Location: DfT, 33 Horseferry Road, SW1P 4DR

Event details

Any understanding of travel behaviour change cannot ignore the role of major life events such as moving home and changing jobs. The Life Transitions project conducted by the University of the West of England, University of Essex and Department for Transport (and funded by ESRC) has been examining how life events act as drivers for change using new data from the Understanding Society panel survey.

We will present:

  • How car ownership and commuting behaviour are more likely to change at the time of major life events (e.g. 30% of non-car commuters switched to commuting by car when they changed employer compared to only 15% of those not changing employer).
  • How the relationship between life events and travel behaviour depends upon neighbourhood context, environmental attitudes, life stage and gender (e.g. Inner London dwelling 1 car households are over 3 times more likely to become car free than those living in rural areas).
  • How the Understanding Society panel survey is providing exciting new opportunities for us to examine how and why travel behaviours are changing over time in the UK (in this project we prepared and analysed a panel data set of 32,000 individuals with detailed information on settlement type, neighbourhood deprivation, public transport accessibility, socio-economic characteristics, attitudes and life events).

After presenting the new evidence, there will be opportunity to discuss how it can be used to better inform the conception, design and analysis of transport policy interventions.

 Draft Programme

13:00        Introduction to the Life Transitions project

13:15        Understanding Society and linking to spatial data

13:30        Household car ownership and life transitions

14:00        Break

14:15        Commuting mode and life transitions

14:45        Implications for policy and practice (discussion)

15:25        Final comments

15:30 –     Informal discussion


Free Understanding Society Training Course

We are running a hands-on workshop on using Understanding Society for Transport Analysis on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th of April 2014.

This practical, two day workshop is specifically organised for transport analysts as part of the Life Transitions and Transport Behaviour  project. Funded by the ESRC’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative, the workshop provides an ideal introduction into the design, data collection, structure, storage and data access opportunities offered by Understanding Society.

The course will be based on a series of examples using the statistical data analysis programme Stata and will include a demonstration of how Understanding Society data can be used to analyse individual level change in travel behaviour and the role of life events.

The workshop will be led by the research team and participants will include staff from DfT, DEFRA and elsewhere. There is no charge for the workshop and refreshments will be provided.

Venue: the workshop will take place at the University of Essex in the EssexLab.

Timing: 9.30 – 17.00 on the 29th of April and from 10.00 to 17.00 on the 30th of April 2014

If you would like to attend please complete the online registration form as soon as possible to ensure a place at our workshop.

If you have more questions about the event (including advice on accommodation), please contact Jay Hemker at jhemker@essex.ac.uk