The number and diversity of sites visited are important considerations, with people who travel more than 15 miles from home more likely to report overall excellent health. Those who travel more frequently are more likely to see friends and family. This increase in social interaction has been related to improved health.
According to a recent study done by UCL academics, people who travel outside of their communities feel healthier than those who stay closer to home. According to the researchers, the findings demonstrate the need of investing in medium and long-distance transportation choices such as better-served highways and access to trains and buses.
The researchers examined travel in the north of England, where inhabitants have poorer health outcomes than the rest of the country and many rural and suburban regions have inadequate transportation accessibility.
They specifically examined the relationships between perceived constraints to travel outside of the local area, such as a lack of suitable public transportation, and self-rated health, taking into account trip frequency, the number of different places visited, distance travelled, car use, and public transportation use.
Lead author Dr Paulo Anciaes (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) said: “We expected to find that restrictions on travel through a lack of access to suitable public transport or to a private car would be linked to residents’ perception of their health because of the lack of social participation.
“We explored the links between constraints to travel more than 15 miles from home, demographics and location and social participation in how residents perceived their own health, finding 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 researchers performed an online survey of 3,014 nationally representative northern English people. Travel restrictions have previously been highlighted as contributing to economic disadvantage and a worse feeling of wellbeing in the region, but the influence on health has not previously been investigated. The researchers employed a study approach known as “path analysis,” which exposes the direct and indirect consequences of travel limits outside of people’s immediate surroundings.
The study discovered that the relationships between travel limits, social involvement, and health are higher among those over the age of 55. Constraints on the number of various places someone may go to are associated with less regular contact with friends and engagement in clubs and organisations among this group.
Dr Anciaes explained: “Those aged over 55 are more likely to face other constraints to travel such as limited mobility. They are also more likely to suffer from loneliness. In the north of England, rural and suburban areas with limited access options are more likely to experience population loss as young people move to the cities in search of work and good travel options. Meanwhile, older generations are left behind in these areas with limited transport options. The range of places they can visit is low, leading to less social participation and lower levels of general health.
“The results of this study emphasise the need for public policies that reduce constraints to travel in the region, by providing better options for private and public transport that allows for more frequent and longer trips.”