A recent study suggests that in comparison with those who cycle or take the train, people who drive to work have higher rates of cancer, death from heart disease, and total death from all causes.
Traveling to work by car is worse for your health than cycling, walking, or taking the train, according to a large study spanning 25 years in England and Wales.
Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, both in the United Kingdom, tracked the outcomes of more than 300,000 commuters between 1991 and 2016.
They tapped into data from the Office for National Statistics’s Longitudinal Study, which collates information on people in England and Wales from several sources, including a national census that takes place every 10 years, cancer diagnoses, and death registrations.
The study, which appears in The Lancet Planetary Health, compared commuting by “private motorized vehicle,” public transport, walking, and cycling in terms of cancer incidence and mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and all-cause mortality.
The researchers adjusted the results for other factors known to influence health, including age, sex, housing tenure, marital status, socioeconomic status, and deprivation.
They also made adjustments for ethnicity, university education, car access, population density, long-term illness, and year of entering the study.
Cyclists fared best in the analysis. Compared with those who drove to work, cyclists had an 11% lower rate of cancer diagnosis and a 16% lower rate of death from cancer. They also had a 24% lower rate of death from cardiovascular disease and a 20% lower rate of death from all causes.
Return to work
However, only 3% of commuters cycled to work during the course of the study. On average, 11% of people walked, 18% used public transport, and 67% drove.
The researchers say that their results suggest that increased walking and cycling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic could reduce deaths from heart disease and cancer.
“As large numbers of people begin to return to work as the COVID-19 lockdown eases, it is a good time for everyone to rethink their transport choices,” says Dr. Richard Patterson from the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, who led the research.
“With severe and prolonged limits in public transport capacity likely, switching to private car use would be disastrous for our health and the environment. Encouraging more people to walk and cycle will help limit the longer term consequences of the pandemic.”
Compared with driving, walking to work was associated with a 7% reduced rate of cancer diagnosis. However, walking was not associated with significant reductions in the rate of death from cancer or heart disease.
The researchers say that this may be because people who walk to work tend to be less affluent than those who drive and are more likely to have underlying health conditions. They say that they may not have fully accounted for these “confounding variables” in their analysis.
The picture was more clear-cut for rail commuters. In comparison with drivers, they had a 12% reduced rate of cancer diagnosis, a 21% reduced rate of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 10% reduced rate of death from all causes.
Lack of exercise
The authors attribute the worse health outcomes for drivers to lack of exercise rather than to increased exposure to air pollution.
In their paper, they cite research suggesting that while the concentration of pollutants can be higher inside cars than outside, the increased breathing rate of pedestrians and cyclists means that they inhale larger amounts.
But research has shown physical activity to improve health in several ways, they write, including reducing all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.
“Our study did not consider which mechanisms were at play, as we did not have data on these factors,” Dr. Patterson told Medical News Today. “However, other research suggests that physical activity is likely to be the predominant mechanism when compared with air pollution.”
In addition to exercise and air pollutant levels, factors such as noise and stress might also have contributed to the health effects of different modes of commuting.
Taking the bus
Interestingly, the research showed that there were no significant health benefits associated with taking the bus to work compared with driving.
Dr. Patterson said that one possible reason for this was that while train commuters are likely to benefit from walking relatively large distances to the nearest train station, bus stops tend to be much closer together, making it possible for most people to reach one in a shorter distance.
In addition, the researchers note that people who commute by train are, on average, likely to be more affluent than bus users. Their analysis may not have fully accounted for this potential confounding factor.
Another limitation of the study was that it was unable to take into account differences in the participants’ diet, whether or not they smoked, levels of other physical activity, and underlying health conditions.
Overall, however, the researchers say that their results are in keeping with other studies that demonstrate the health benefits of cycling and walking.
Dr. Anthony Laverty, who is from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London and the senior author of the study, welcomed efforts in the U.K. to avoid a rebound in road use after the easing of lockdown restrictions.
“It’s great to see that the government is providing additional investment to encourage more walking and cycling during the post-lockdown period,” he says.
“While not everyone is able to walk or cycle to work, the government can support people to ensure that beneficial shifts in travel behavior are sustained in the longer term. Additional benefits include better air quality, which has improved during lockdown, and reduced carbon emissions, which is crucial to address the climate emergency.”
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
BREAKING: No Fresh Probe Of Adesina ―AfDB Board Rules
The Bureau of the Board of Governors of African Development Bank (AfDB) on Thursday foreclosed the possibility of reopening the probe of the bank’s President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina. At a meeting, the body declared that an independent investigation was not required as demanded the United States of America… Read full story
NCDC Releases New Guidelines On COVID-19 Patients’ Treatment, Discharge
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday announced a new case management guidelines for the treatment and discharge of COVID-19 pandemic patients. Its Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) media briefing in Abuja… Read full story
UN Puts Nigeria’s Electricity Access Rate At 57%
No fewer than 110.7 million Nigerians out of a 195.8 million estimated population had access to electricity as of 2018, according to the latest global energy progress report. This represents a 57 per cent national electricity access rate compared with the global average of 90 per cent, says the report launched at the… Read full story
Akinwumi Adesina And AfDB
AFTER the Ethics Committee of the African Development Bank (AfDB) had returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict on the bank’s president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, who had been accused by a group of whistleblowers of approving certain appointments and contracts that were in breach of the financial institution’s statutory and… Read full story
COVID-19: Nigeria Records 350 New Cases, Total Now 11,516
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed 350 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 11,516. The centre disclosed this on Tuesday night via its… Read full story
COVID-19: African Nations Get $9.8bn As IMF Supports 66 Countries With $23bn
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided over $23 billion in emergency financial assistance and debt relief to 66 member countries facing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. According to information sourced from IMF’s website on Thursday, sub-Saharan Africa got the highest support of $9.81 billion… Read full story
Osun Relaxes Curfew, Now 9pm To 5am
The governor of Osun State, Mr Adegboyega Oyetola, on Thursday, announced a new set of guidelines that would guide the second phase of the gradual reopening of the state’s economy, following the lockdown imposed by the government in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic… Read full story
COVID-19: Nigeria Experiencing Steady Rise In Maternal, Child Mortality ― PTF
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, on Thursday, lamented that the country is experiencing a steady rise in maternal and child mortality as a result of disrupted essential services, due to the COVID-19 pandemic… Read full story
Through Facebook, Three Brothers Kidnap, Murder 55-Yr-Old Mother Of Five Children
Three brothers of one Emmanuel family, Johnson, Gideon and Success, have been arrested by the police for the kidnap and murder of one Mrs Janet Ogbonnaya. One of the three brothers, Johnson Emmanuel, had lured the woman, a mother of five children, via Facebook from her Gwagwalada home where they allegedly… Read full story
Police Give Account Of How 21 People Were Killed In 2 LGs In Zamfara
Zamfara State police command has said 21 people were killed in attacks carried out in two local government areas of the state. This was contained in a statement signed by the police image-maker… Read full story