People who regularly travel more than 15 miles from home are more likely to report being in good health than homebodies, a British study suggests. Photo by J Whatley/Wikimedia Commons
Jan. 4 (UPI) — People who regularly travel more than 15 miles away from home are more likely to report being in good health than people who stay closer to home.
That’s according to a University College London-led study released Wednesday that explores travel in the north of England, where researchers said residents face worse health outcomes than in the rest of the country — and where many rural and suburban areas have poor access to transportation.
According to the researchers, people who travel more frequently to a wider variety of places are more likely to see friends and family, and this boost in social interaction is linked to better health.
The scientists said their findings, published in the Journal of Transport & Health, provide strong evidence to support the need for investment in better serviced roads and access to trains and buses.
For their study, the researchers said they conducted an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 3,014 residents in the north of England.
While previous research has shown that travel constraints contribute to economic disadvantage and a lower sense of well-being in the region, they said, the impact on people’s health hadn’t been analyzed before.
Dr. Paulo Anciaes, the study’s lead author and a researcher in University College London’s Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources, said in a news release that “the key variable is the number of different places people visit outside their local area. This links to more social participation and better health.”
The investigators used a research technique called “path analysis,” which highlights the direct and indirect effects of obstacles to traveling outside of people’s local area.
They examined the links between perceived constraints to travel outside of the local area, such as lack of suitable public transportation, and people’s self-rated health, looking at trip frequency, the number of different places visited, the distance traveled, car use and public transportation use.
They found that the links between travel constraints, social participation and health are stronger among people over age 55, who may end up in less frequent contact with friends and curtail participation in clubs and social activities.
Older people, past the age of 55, are more likely to have limited mobility and to be lonely, Anciaes said in the release.
Also, he said, in the north of England, certain areas may be experiencing population loss as young people move to the cities in search of work and good travel options. This leaves behind older generations with limited transport options, which in turn leads to less social participation and lower levels of general health.
In an October 2022 study, Anciaes found that Britain’s congested roads were taking a toll on people’s mental and physical health.