Cycling to Work Associated with Improved Mental Health: Study


A new study conducted in Scotland suggests that individuals who cycle to work are less likely to be prescribed medication for anxiety or depression compared to those who use other modes of transportation. The analysis, which examined data from nearly 380,000 individuals, indicates that commuting by bike can reduce the risk of mental health issues.

While previous research has shown that cycling to work has positive effects on mental well-being, previous studies have involved small sample sizes and self-reported measures of mental health. However, the Edinburgh researchers were able to combine data from the 2011 Scottish census with NHS prescription records, resulting in a more substantial sample size.

The study included 378,253 individuals between the ages of 16 and 74 who lived and worked in Edinburgh or Glasgow, lived within approximately one mile of a cycle path, and had no prior prescriptions for mental illness. The researchers discovered a 15% decrease in prescriptions for anxiety or depression among individuals who commuted by bike compared to non-cyclists during the five-year follow-up period.

Interestingly, the reduction in mental health prescriptions was more pronounced in women who cycled to work than in men. Dr. Laurie Berrie, a member of the research team, explained that the study was able to replicate a randomized controlled trial by comparing the mental health of individuals who cycled to work with those who used other forms of transportation but were similar in other respects.

Additionally, the analysis revealed that a small percentage of individuals in both Glasgow (2%) and Edinburgh (just under 5%) commuted by bike. Men were found to be more likely than women to cycle to work.

The findings from this study highlight the importance of promoting active travel and investing in infrastructure to encourage more individuals to commute by bike. The team emphasizes that these measures can have far-reaching benefits, not only for mental health but also for reducing carbon emissions, alleviating road congestion, and improving air quality.

Professor Chris Dibben, another member of the research team, noted the significance of these findings, stating that promoting cycling as an economical and sustainable method of commuting can lead to improvements in mental health while also addressing environmental concerns.

In conclusion, this study provides further evidence of the advantages of cycling to work. By actively promoting cycling and investing in infrastructure such as cycle paths, communities can improve mental health outcomes and contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable environment.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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