back to article Public transport 'is bad for commuters' health'

Swedish researchers have carried out a survey which, they say, reveals that commuting by public transport or by car damages people's health compared to making the journey to work by foot or bicycle. Curiously, the research also appeared to show that a long commute by car led to better health than a short drive in. The survey …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... is not cause.

  2. dotdavid


    Public transport is certainly bad for the health of my bank balance.

    1. MGJ

      What, do you get a free car and petrol allowance with your work but choose not to use it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I find public transport comes in well below the cost of running a car.

      1. Tom Wood

        Maybe, if you don't already own a car.

        "public transport comes in well below the cost of running a car."

        Although if you already own a car (to use for journeys other than commuting), but choose to commute via public transport, the economics are considerably different to if you didn't own a car at all - thing such as insurance, road tax etc are largely fixed costs so the more you drive the cheaper it becomes per mile.

        It also depends on where you live - in London or a few other cities if you're near the tube/tram etc then public transport is (relatively) cheap and convenient and driving is slow and expensive. If you're anywhere else in the country public transport is generally less convenient and more expensive than it is in London and driving is mostly relatively quicker and cheaper than in London.

        Personally - I live and work in West Yorkshire. My commute is 9 miles, I generally drive three times a week and cycle twice a week. Driving is generally quicker than cycling, but only just, and it does depend on when you leave - avoiding the worst of the school run makes things quicker in the car but not much different when cycling. I could get the train but due to the changes involved it takes longer than cycling and is more expensive than driving and is only worth doing where beer after work is involved...

      2. Keeees

        Re: PT cheaper than car

        In a lot of cases that depends on how you value your time.

        My weapon of choice is a motorcycle. My commute takes a fairly steady 30 minutes. By public transport it's an hour, if no connections are missed.

        Yes running the bike is more expensive even if you ignore fixed cost (insurance etc), but those 5 extra hours of free time per week are certainly not without value.

        1. Audrey S. Thackeray

          that depends on how you value your time

          And the relevance of *that* one way or the other depends on which takes longer and what counts as 'free time'.

          For me sleeping or reading a book on the tube for an hour would be a better use of my life than shunting a motorbike through traffic for half that amount of time and, to drag this back towards the article topic, would probably result in me reporting a greater sense of well being, you might not feel the same.

          I know other people work on long train commutes and spend less time in the office or at least get more done overall as a result and so consider a longer commute untroubled by having to concentrate on the control of the vehicle a better option than a shorter drive, I also have friends who would rather not have to mix with the great unwashed and drive everywhere even if it takes them longer.

          There's nothing cut and dried about any of this once you start including subjective value judgements.

        2. AdamWill

          Don't you mean...

          ...five *fewer* hours?

          After all, when you're riding your motorcycle, all you can do is work on the job of riding a motorcycle in the right direction without dying. When I'm sitting on a bus I'm generally doing something I enjoy, usually reading.

          1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        3. LaeMing

          Yes, time is something than needs to be factored in.

          I offset half the 2 hours a day I spend walking to/from work by not spending an hour every day in a gym (which is then another saving, of course). The other hour is not offset, however, as I generally enjoy the walking+thinking time (I am a pacer anyway - think best when walking) it works for me. YMMV of course.

          Though since my walk is 50% along major traffic thorougufares, I am pretty sure I am getting way more exhaust particulates and CO down my lungs than is good for anyone :-(

    3. dotdavid


      Thanks to all who've replied "BUT CARS ARE MORE EXPENSIVE!!!!" to my comment. I never said they weren't; like the survey I was comparing my commute on the train to walking or using a bike.

      Although I must admit my particular commute into London would actually be cheaper if I were to do it by car. It would just be a lot slower and (surprisingly, considering my local train firm is First Capital Con) more prone to delays.

  3. Richard 31
    Paris Hilton

    longer car journeys?

    Perhaps longer times spent in the cars could be because modern cars have quite good air filtering for the cabin. Longer times in comparitvely clean air helps?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Not really

      People will take 1h+ commute only if the drive is sane. 1h commute on an empty motorway is definitely less nerve wrecking than 10 minutes across London rush hour.

      Similarly, if you are commuting for 1h you will chose a comfortable car instead of trying to save pennies at the cost of a headache from the buzzing of a 107 or Micra. These may be good enough for the 30 minutes navigation cross rush hour in let's say Reading or Milton Keynes. If you drive them on a daily basis for 60 odd miles one way you will find yourself looking for a Serie 3, A4 or something in that class very soon. It may be more expensive per mile, but it delivers you in a shape fit to work. As a result, rather unsurprisingly it also delivers less aggravation and you end up in better health.

      And so on.

      All in all - not surprising. Less adrenalin, less stress, better health. Causation nicely underlying correlation.

  4. Bassey

    Isn't this fairly straight-forward

    Those who live close enough to the city centre to walk/cycle are also able to afford city centre rent/mortgage so are generally high-income individuals. Those living within 30/60 drive/bus are in the poorer parts of the city or just outside. Those greater than an hour away (as suggested in the report) are also high earners.

    All this report has done is identify the spread for the cost of housing as you move away from the city centre. Not that disposable income HAS to correlate to health but it is certainly easier to be healthy if every last penny isn't being spent on accomodation, fuel and travel.

  5. TRT Silver badge

    I work in the City...

    Life expectancy of a cyclist on London's streets?

    1. Tom Wood

      Pretty good.

      If you pay attention to where you are going. It would be even higher if it wasn't for all the drivers, taxis and buses.

      There are thousands of cyclists in London and statistically few of them get injured - those that do are often doing silly things like undertaking lorries at traffic lights.

    2. Stuart 22 Silver badge

      Life expectancy

      Longer than if you don't cycle. The extra risk of a collision on the street is much less than the health benefit of cycling. The car seat is your greatest risk ...

  6. Rainer

    Only if... can sleep on the seat next to the driver.

    Occasionally driving to work is OK, but doing it on a regular basis? Bah!

    Also, driving by car is only cheaper if you don't have an accident and use the cheapest car available.

  7. TheOtherHobbbes


    ... "people who walk and cycle to work feel good" becomes "people who use public transport feel bad"?

    Utter, utter, total, scientific fail there.

    No mention of confidence values, or any other useful numbers either.

    (Why is Mr Page still getting paid to write this tabloid rubbish on here?)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To be fair to Lewis this time, the headline was the major fail - his article did point out some of the doubts about how you'd interpret the results.

    2. Alex Rose

      Why is Mr Page still getting paid to write this tabloid rubbish on here?

      Probably because people like you continue to read it resulting in ad revenue for the business. I *think* it's called capitalism, or something like that.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        I generally don't read Register eco stories...

        ...and Lewis Page is just an Andrew Orlowski wannabee. Or alias for tax reasons, for all I know.

        But a headline and sub-head that tells us that the longer you drive, the better you feel, whilst omitting that you still feel worse than the bus or train commuters enjoying their free Sudoku in "Metro", or the happiest-of-all cyclis|s and pedestrians, is the most bent story of these that I did see.

        I cycle 4 miles to and 4 from work except when it's raining, freezing, or I'm ill - I hope they allowed for those factors. Oh, and when the forecast is bad weather although it is okay after all, in which case I'm grumpy about spending the money.

  8. koopmaster

    What about the other 2 wheeled vehicles?

    I use a 125cc motorbike to drive to work in London and it’s by far the best, no public transport stress from the overcrowded trains and no stilling in daily traffic jams.

    It also works out cheap than public transport and there is no congestion charge, the only expense is the £1 parking when visiting my clients in Lester Square above “” office building.

    1. Audrey S. Thackeray

      Yes but you can't have a drink. Or at least really didn't ought to.

  9. Jason Bloomberg

    The long and short of it

    Having commuted fairly regularly across country the 200 miles each way in reasonably free-flowing traffic is usually more pleasant and less stressful than the 30 minute stop-start crawl to the local office.

    It is also quicker and cheaper than train and door-to-door beats the mad mix of walking/taxi and a variety of public transport to do that; one cancelled or late service and it all falls to pieces.

    Perhaps the most stress relieving part is being able to guarantee a seat and a compartment all to myself. I can turn the phone off and I've the perfect excuse not to do any work while driving. And it's got music and air-con which I can adjust to how I like it. Luxury.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You commute 200 miles by car?

      Are you insane? :)

  10. John McCallum

    One could as I do start work at 0545 and finish at 1430/1245 on friday

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This one couldn't - I've only ever seen 05:45 when coming at it from the evening-out-gone-well direction.

  11. Buzzword

    Sweden != UK

    The research was undertaken in Sweden. Sweden is a vast country with a much smaller population; even the densely populated areas are much less dense than England. In Liverpool, a 60 minute drive just takes you to Manchester or Preston, or one of the many in-fill towns and suburbs. In London, a 60 minute drive in rush hour takes you one quarter turn around the M25 (if you're lucky). In Sweden, a 60 minute drive takes you far out into the countryside.

    But as the article points out, the reason is probably sample bias. Long-distance drivers are more likely to be high earners, and high earners live longer and healthier lives. Simples.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Too many variables, surely?

    There's so many different types of commutes, at least in this country.

    What about a rail commuters who don't commute on a busy route?

    What about people who walk to the bus stop, get a bus, then a train, then walk to the office?

    I can't see how this research can be in *any* way accurate - yeah, the walk or cycle one is blindingly obvious, but what about people who drive to work and also exercise an hour each day?

    there's simply *far* too many variations in people's lifestyles and commuting patterns to derive anything of significance.

    What pointless research.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's quite easy to explain why this whole study is crap.

    People who take public transport, particularly in a country like Sweden where their capital is still easy enough to drive in unlike London, are generally less well off- they do so because they can't afford a car, or were simply too lazy to learn to drive. They take public transport, rather than cycle or walk because of that inherent laziness.

    People who do long commutes only do so because the job/pay has to be worth it, else they simply wouldn't bother doing such a commute. To get good pay or a good job you often HAVE to do a long commute. It means these people doing long commutes can also live in nicer suburban or rural settings which will be much more relaxing and provide much more room for healthy recreational activities outside of work.

    In other words, this study likely says as much about how wealth/quality of job affects health/quality of life as it does anything else. Any number of things can explain the outcome of this study.

    1. Trygve

      An expert on Swedish work/travel patterns are you?

      Because from my experience of the place, I think you don't have a clue what you are babbling about.

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    It's probably more likely that those jobs that are near enough to a person's home to be accessible by bus, are more stressful and bad for their health.

  15. Andy Farley

    People who take longer to get to work

    Are in my experience the higher paid people, who would be expected to have access to a healthier lifestyle.

    As AC says, Correlation is not cause.

  16. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Get off earlier

    I used to ride straight to my tube station close to where I work, now I jump off a couple of stops earlier and walk the last couple of miles. I takes about 30 mins but it does help be "de-stress" after the previous 90 mins on trains and tubes. Seeing something different for the last 30 mins of the journey helps put in a better frame of mind when I finally get in.

    The exercise must be doing some good but the pints at lunchtime soon offset that!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandfather did, in his sleep -- not screaming, like the passengers in his car."

    -- Jack Handey

  18. Graham Bartlett
    Thumb Down

    Long commute not better than short commute

    For a couple of years, I commuted 45 minutes down the A14 (Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds, if you're interested). Traffic was usually fairly sane. But I wasn't afterwards.

    The problem with driving is that you need to be paying constant attention, and the result of that is mental fatigue. So you arrive at work tired before you start, and you get home even more tired.

    Then there's what it does to your routine, which affects exercise. If you're getting back home at 6pm and you're not too tired, you've got time for a bite to eat and then head out to the gym or wherever. If you're getting back home knackered at 7pm, by the time you've eaten and digested it's 8pm and it's too late to be going out for exercise, and you're too tired to do it anyway. Less exercise means you're less healthy.

  19. Solomon Grundy

    Car Quality

    I wonder if those making the long car commutes also drove nicer cars. A long drive in a nice car can actually be fun.

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