Independent travel may mean better mental health

In a new study, researchers found that independent travel may mean better mental health in older people.

It is important for older adults to be able to travel independently—whether by driving themselves or taking public transport.

The research was conducted by a team from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin.

In this study, the team found that older adults driving, being driven by a partner/spouse and taking public transport are linked to better mental health, higher levels of social participation and greater social networks compared to those being driven by family, friends or taking taxis.

They found that traveling independently was linked to lower depressive symptoms, better quality of life, and better social life.

The greatest benefits were found for those driving themselves.

On the other hand, people with reduced levels of driving (and particularly non-drivers or those who have stopped driving) report higher depressive symptoms and loneliness, lower quality of life, fewer social networks.

Men who have stopped driving and men who regularly travel by public transport reported higher levels of loneliness than women.

The team says driving allows a level of freedom and independence that is often not available with public transport.

Therefore, it is hugely important for social engagement, mental health, and wellbeing.

Many people drive less frequently or stop driving as they get older, and this can be a huge upheaval especially if this change is not made by choice.

Early planning and the availability of suitable alternative means of transport are very important to facilitate this transition from driving to not driving.

The lead author of the study is TILDA Project Manager Dr. Orna Donoghue.

The study is published in the journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour.

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