Breakthrough in research of the blindingly obvious… but more research still needed say academics
by tony_farrelly on October 31, 2011
Commuting by car or public transport is bad for your health, that’s the not very shocking conclusion of a Swedish public health survey in to the commuting habits of 21,000 people which has been published in the journal BMC Public Health
The snappily titled “Detection Relationship between commuting and health outcomes in a cross-sectional population survey in southern Sweden” was carried out by researchers from Lund University gathered information on full time workers aged between 18 and 65 in southern Sweden. In a press release explaining their findings Erik Hansseen from the university’s division of occupational and environmental medicine said:
“Generally car and public transport users suffered more everyday stress, poorer sleep quality, exhaustion and, on a seven point scale, felt that they struggled with their health compared to the active commuters.
“The negative health of public transport users increased with journey time. However, the car drivers who commuted 30 – 60 minutes experienced worse health than those whose journey lasted more than one hour.”
While most of this might seem confirmation of the staggeringly obvious the Lund researchers say that all might not be as it seems. They point out, (we’d like to imagine while leaning forward at their desks and pressing their fingertips together before possibly taking their rimless glasses off for a quick polish), that some of the health outcomes might relate to the economic circumstances of their research subjects as much as their chosen methods of commuting. Thus poorer people might be more likely to commute by public transport, but their health would also be adversely affected by the very fact of being poor. However the economic argument doesn’t necessarily explain why cyclists and walkers are healthier other than the active nature of their commutes. While in the UK cyclists are generally slightly more affluent than the general population that may or may not be true for Southern Sweden. Pedestrians are likely to be drawn from all economic strata of a society.
That they say, probably while staring out of the lab window at a fiord (do they have those in Sweden – ed), might also explain one of the seeming anomalies of the research, that commuters who drove for over an hour to work were more relaxed and less stressed than those that drove for under an hour. This they posit could be down to the relaxing nature of driving through Southern Sweden or the fact that people driving longer distances could be more affluent, high achieving males who didn’t really have very much to worry about anyway.
The Lund researchers conclude that more research is needed to tease this knotty one out. Well fancy that.