Data Insights: Commuting to work by bicycle reduces mental ill-health

It is well known that physical activity has a positive effect on mental health, but there is some debate over whether the domain in which individuals take part in physical activity is important. For example, does engaging in active travel to work have the same benefits as walking or cycling in your leisure time? Research shows that cycling to work, when compared to all other modes of commute, reduces the likelihood of experiencing mental ill-health - specifically anxiety and depression.

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What we found

  • We found that cycle commuting reduced the likelihood of receiving a prescription for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication in the 5 years following the census.
  • This effect was larger for females than for males.
  • The effect was greater for antidepressant prescriptions than for anti-anxiety prescriptions.

Why it matters

Promoting cycling has been part of numerous Scottish policy agendas including health, transport and climate change. This research supports increased investment in cycling and cycling infrastructure as there is evidence that this leads to increased cycle commute uptake.

As well as contributing to reduced mental ill-health, increased cycle commuting would reduce carbon emissions, congestion, and air and noise pollution. It would also increase physical activity levels and contribute to more liveable cities.


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