Over 60s not using public transport despite health benefits

September 29, 2017
Credit: Chris Guy, source: Flickr

Two thirds of adults over 60 rarely or never use public transport, even though it's free and brings health benefits, according to a UCL-led study. 

The study, published today in BMJ Open, found that older people who used regularly, walked faster and were more physically active.

Researchers from UCL and the University of Manchester analysed data from over 7,000 from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and found that those who did not use public had a faster decline in walking speed compared to those who used public transport frequently. Among who chose not to use public transport, most of whom used cars instead, the decline in walking speed was the greatest.

One third of adults over 60 did not use public transport due to a lack of infrastructure and the poor quality of transport provided, whereas another third had no need as most of them had access to a car. Only six per cent of adults cited as the reason for not using public transport.

"Despite having free travel, and being mobile, older people are not using public transport for a number of reasons. This is mostly because of the lack of infrastructure and availability of transport. Those who use public transport frequently are more physically active and have stronger lower limb muscle strength than non-users of public transport. So making public transport more accessible to could prevent some age-related declines in functional mobility," explained the lead author Dr Patrick Rouxel (UCL Institute of Education).

Most of the adults involved in the study lived in urban areas yet only 23 per cent used public transport more than once a week. 33 per cent of older adults reported not using public transport because of a lack of infrastructure, and the poor quality of public transport (infrequent, unreliable or inconvenient public transport and other barriers), while 28 per cent reported not using public transport because they did not need to. Nine per cent of older adults used public transport most days and 14 per cent used it two or three times a week.

"Previous studies on the topic have not been able to take into account the possibility that poor may be driving the association between not using public transport and lower mobility, mainly because they did not consider the reasons why people do not use public transport. In this study, we show that poor health does not drive the decreased use of public transport, it's down to poor infrastructure or the lack of need. "The arising from frequent public transport use seem to lead to improvements in older adult's and lower limb muscle strength," added Dr Rouxel.

The researchers highlighted the importance of the study given the current context of cuts in public transport availability in England. The average levels of walking speed in this sample of older adults for all categories of public transport use were well below the recommended 1.2 m/s walking speed needed for standard pedestrian crossings. Any increase in the walking speed of older adults through factors such as physical activity and increased public transport use may help them cross the road safely.

Co-author, Professor Tarani Chandola from the University of Manchester added, "Using public transport more than once a week is not only environmentally friendly, but it has all these other benefits such as maintaining people's health and physical activity and reducing their social isolation.

"We already knew that use of public transport declines with age and that there was a link between public transport and mobility, but this study goes further and suggests that there is a faster decline in mobility among those who drive compared to those who take a bus or a train. Improving the quality and access to public transport may help prevent future health problems among older adults and to maintain their physical capabilities."

Explore further: Walking to work cuts risk of diabetes and high blood pressure

Related Stories

Walking to work cuts risk of diabetes and high blood pressure

August 6, 2013
People who walk to work are around 40 per cent less likely to have diabetes as those who drive, according to a new study.

Public transport, walking and cycling

March 16, 2016
Adults who commute to work via cycling or walking have lower body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) measures in mid-life compared to adults who commute via car, according to a new study in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology ...

Cycling or walking to and from work linked to substantial health benefits

April 19, 2017
Active commuting by bicycle is associated with a substantial decrease in the risk of death from all causes, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD), compared with non-active commuting by car or public transport, finds a study ...

Recommended for you

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.