Pluralistic ignorance is alive and should be challenged

Post by Dr Adrian Davis, Professor of Transport & Health, Transport Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University

Pluralistic ignorance is alive and thriving. So, what is it? In studies, researcher have found that on many topics of public importance people hold inaccurate perceptions of others’ opinions. This contributes to self-silencing among those concerned about such issues (i.e. pluralistic ignorance). This can then result in opponents of pro-environment/health interventions continuing to claim that their unfounded views are true and have majority support. On transport and the environment issues pluralistic ignorance has been shown with regards a range of topics including support for 20mph speed limits, action on air pollution, as well as on climate change.

This is a phenomenon commonly found across many areas of public policy e.g. support for racial segregation in the 1970s (most white Americans supported desegregation but believed that most others supported segregation); norms of alcohol consumption (university students believing that norms of alcohol consumption were excessive but perceived that most others supported them). One of the causes of pluralistic ignorance is that individuals believe the opinions of outspoken group members reflect the opinions of most others in the group [1]. In cases where the most outspoken people hold an opinion only shared by a minority within the group, group members may get the false impression that most others hold the minority opinion in question.

By way of further example, in 2016 the Common Cause Foundation reported on a national survey they undertook to explore what a typical UK Citizen values [2]. They found that 74% of people report caring about compassionate values more than selfish values. This isn’t to suggest that selfish values, such as wealth and social status, are unimportant to most people: at some level, they are important to almost everyone. But their results corroborate earlier surveys of UK citizens in showing that most people place greater importance on compassionate values than on selfish values. However, and typical of pluralistic ignorance, the survey results revealled that most UK citizens (77%) underestimate the importance that a typical British person attaches to compassionate values while also overestimating the importance that a typical British person attaches to selfish values. In other words, people tend to assume that a typical fellow citizen has a lower adjusted compassionate value score than is actually the case. When interviewed after completion of the survey, the researchers found that many participants perceived a gap between their own values and those of typical fellow citizens.

Work we have undertaken at UWE Bristol on aspects of transport attitudes and behaviours has found that pluralistic ignorance exists around majority support for 20mph speed limits in communities. Despite representative sample surveys showing 65-70% majority support for 20mph in local communities across Great Britain, when asked whether most people in the country support 20 mph limits, we found a larger percentage of adults disagreed than agreed that there was support with a resulting consequent ‘spiral of silence’ [3].

Spirals of silence is self-silencing and it may be a form of impression management. Individuals desire to be viewed in a positive light and sharing an unpopular opinion could result in others perceiving them negatively. The desire to avoid being disliked has also been well established as a motive for self-silencing when one is a target of discrimination and prejudice. Researchers have thus proposed that people self-silence because of fear of isolation [4]. Thus, a majority of concerned individuals are inhibited from taking climate action, out of fear of deviating from a misperceived social norm. Pluralistic ignorance leads to self-silencing because perceptions that others do not share one’s opinion are associated with expecting to be perceived as less competent in a conversation. One way to promote discussion is to correct pluralistic ignorance, informing those with inaccurate perceptions of others’ opinions that a majority do share their concerns.

Encouragingly, research also finds those who are aware of others’ concern about climate change report greater willingness to discuss the issue than those with inaccurate perceptions of others’ opinions. However, the effects of pluralistic ignorance is promoting public silence on the socially relevant topic of climate change [5]. Among students, survey respondents who did not themselves doubt climate change were less willing to discuss the topic when they inaccurately believed fellow students would not share their opinion than when they accurately perceived they were in the majority. The reason individuals are more willing to discuss climate change when they perceive that others agree is because they expected to be respected more (i.e., appear more competent). In the US, while 66–80% Americans support these policies, Americans estimate the prevalence to only be between 37–43% on average [6].

To create serious movement, not least on climate change, we must dispel the myth of indifference. Pluralistic ignorance is often a barrier to discussions. This barrier can be removed by informing those with inaccurate perceptions of others’ opinions that a majority do share their concerns.

[1] Shamir, J., Shamir, M. 1997 Pluralistic ignorance across issues and over time. Public Opinion Quarterly, 61: 227 – 260.

[2] Common Cause Foundation, 2016 Perceptions Matter. The Common Cause UK Values Survey.

[3] Tapp. A. et al, 2016 Vicious or virtuous circles? Exploring the vulnerability of drivers to break low urban speed limits, Transportation Research Part A, 91: 195-212.

[4] Holoien, D., Fiske, S. 2013 Downplaying positive impressions: compensation between warmth and competence in impression management, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(1): 33-41.

[5] Geiger, N., Swim, J. 2016 Climate of silence: Pluralistic ignorance as a barrier to climate change discussion, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 47, 79-90.

[6] Sparkman, G., Geiger, N. Weber, E.U. 2022 Americans experience a false social reality by underestimating popular climate policy support by nearly halfNature Communications 13, 4779.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Pluralistic ignorance is alive and should be challenged

Parked cars and helicopter parents: Barriers to children’s independent outdoor play and mobility?

Post by Dr. Jemima Stockton, THSG UK Executive Committee

A couple of weeks ago, my 5-year-old son A. and his 4-year-old friend M. had just had their Thursday swimming lesson. A. and I, and M. and her mum, were walking back to their house for our regular post-swim dinner of pesto pasta. As we arrived, A. and M. clocked a lush carpet of dandelions on the four by ten metre communal front garden, an overgrown lawn partly bordered by bushes and partly open to the street. This, they said, was where they wanted to play whilst dinner was cooked.

Why was it, then, that after a few seconds’ deliberation, M.’s mum and I chivvied the children indoors to play in the living room? Why deny them the independent outdoor play they craved and that we had ourselves enjoyed as children a generation ago? The reason wasn’t stranger danger; random kidnapping by a person unknown to the victim is mercifully uncommon in London. And we weren’t especially concerned that A. and M. would come to harm if left unsupervised for half an hour. Sure, there were steps to trip down, walls to fall off, stones to hurl at each other and tempers to boil over unchecked. But none of these things was the deciding factor.

M. and her family live in a flat within a Victorian terraced house in Kentish Town, North London. Average traffic volume on her street, like on many others in the borough of Camden, is very low. So, mostly, is the speed, thanks to the 20 mile per hour limit set on all the local council-managed roads. In fact, in Camden this speed limit has recently been rolled out even on some of the Transport for London-managed red routes – the city’s most heavily trafficked roads – in line with London Mayor Sadiq Kahn’s Vision Zero policy, which aims to reduce the rates of serious injury and death on the capital’s roads to zero by 2041. Had either child strayed from the garden onto the usually very quiet street beyond – to chase a cat or a squirrel or a ball or just out of curiosity – you would think they’d most probably be fine. But most probably isn’t a great statistic when a possible outcome is serious injury or death.

On M.’s road, as on many others, the danger posed by the moving cars is amplified by the wall of parked ones that mean you can’t see things coming. Even if drivers observe the speed limit, the consequences of a child darting out from a tiny gap between two parked cars into the middle of the carriageway at just the wrong moment are unthinkable. This likely helps explain the finding of a recent YouGov poll of parents commissioned by UK walking charity, Living Streets, that 60% of primary school children never play out on their local street. In London, I reckon the figure is higher; I only see children playing on residential streets on the rare occasions they are repurposed as ‘play streets’. (A play street is the temporary opening of a street for play and community, and closure to through traffic, agreed and arranged by neighbours and endorsed by the local council.)

A typical street, full of parked cars © J. Stockton

Thinking again about the incident that prompted these reflections, it’s notable that A. and M. didn’t ask to play on the street, only in the communal garden. The idea of playing in the street itself would not have occurred to them, which is hardly surprising: it’s not something they ever see kids doing. In fact, A.’s school – where the catchment area is tiny (in 2022, the furthest child accepted lived 280 metres away, as the crow flies) – won’t allow children to walk to school alone until they are in Year 3 (7 or 8 years old). Yet when I was at primary school in the 1980s, children younger than this walked further to school alone and we played out in our neighbourhoods until dusk. My own parents recall even more freedom as children of the 1950s.

Just as evidence confirms a decline in children’s independent play and mobility over the last seventy years, so other studies point to the mental and physical health benefits, as well as the improvement in social development and well-being enjoyed by children who are left to explore their neighbourhood unsupervised. Yet in 2019 to 2020, less than half of five- to eighteen-year-olds in England met the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of an hour of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per day. Physical activity has been found to be higher among children with unrestricted independent outdoor play than among those whose play is restricted.

Adding to the evidence in favour of unsupervised play, Norwegian researchers have theorised that risky play serves an evolutionary purpose in child development. Very young children have a natural inhibition of situations they are developmentally unable to handle which protects them from danger. As they grow, they are drawn to the thrill of risky play which, aside from being fun, has an anti-phobic effect in allowing them to master challenges that are now age appropriate and no longer dangerous for them. The skills that children develop through play with emotional, social and physical risk are proposed to be lifelong, equipping them to tackle psychosocial and physical tasks later as adults. If this theory is correct, surely risky outdoor play should be encouraged.

Kids now spend a scary amount of their lives parked inside our homes, as do cars outside them. This is no coincidence. The transformation of residential street from play space in the 1950s to child-repellent informal car park in the 2020s reflects the rise in the household car access rate in Great Britain over this period, from just over one in ten with at least one car to almost eight in ten now. In London, where population density is fifteen times higher than the rest of England, 58% of households have at least one car and the average car spends 95% of the time stationary, 80% of this outside its owners’ home. That equals a lot of cars, occupying a lot of residential street space, for a lot of time.

Another street full of parked cars. © J. Stockton

The almost total displacement of playing children on our streets by parked cars, over only a couple of generations, is alarming. Equally alarming is society’s apparent lack of alarm. This may be, in part, due to the rise in helicopter parenting – the overprotection of a child by a parent “hovering” above, ready to swoop down and rescue them at the first sign of danger – driven by social media-fuelled anxieties over traffic and crime. Risk-averse, helicopter parents likely welcome restrictions on children’s independent play and mobility. After school clubs and classes, and parent-policed playdates are deemed safe; unsupervised street play is not.

Research indicates that the absence of children playing exacerbates the real and perceived domination of space by vehicular traffic, creating a kind of snowball effect in the transition from kids to cars. It has been observed that children playing on pavements act as “mental speed bumps” and are more effective than conventional, non-fleshy speed bumps and line markings at calming traffic, and that the degree to which residents have retreated from their street governs traffic speed. So, defying social norms may be key to rejecting the status quo. But it takes brave parents to deploy their children as traffic calming measures in an attempt to make motorists more careful and streets more attractive for others to play on. And anyway, whilst this might make roads safer, such efforts would not rid them of parked cars. Who wants to play football when the ball keeps getting trapped underneath the chassis of next door’s SUV?

So, let’s go back to the real culprits: parked cars. As I mentioned, the average car in London spends most of its time motionless, with less than 5% served as transport, its raison d’être. That’s a total of around one hour a day in motion. The goddess of de-cluttering, M. Kondo, says that “if you can’t find a place for something in your home, and you don’t use it often, then you don’t need it”. So how can we justify the mass storage of under-used private vehicles in the public realm? We can’t. But until we confront this injustice – by incentivizing car sharing, restricting parking permits and, crucially, investing adequately in public transport – I’m afraid A. and M., along with millions of other children without private gardens, are not free to go out and play.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Parked cars and helicopter parents: Barriers to children’s independent outdoor play and mobility?

Stand clear of the doors please

Travelling easily by train with a bike shouldn’t be a fantasy

Post by James Adamson, THSG Board Member

Since starting work in 2002 I have cycled to work with distances ranging from one to 12 miles. Every day, rain or shine. It’s a habit that I enjoy, and I never consider it a difficulty because I am just used to it. I realised how much I missed my daily fix of fresh air and exercise during COVID. I enjoy cycling. It’s quick and easy and lets me choose when I leave and where I go. And it has kept me in good health, so much so that I have only been off sick once in the last 12 years. I also enjoy cheaper commuting costs and consistent travel times and not being caught in traffic jams.

We know active travel is good for us and good for the planet so why aren’t more people cycling for journeys where walking might be too far? We know the answers people give to this question too: roads are too busy, nowhere to lock my bike, nowhere to have a shower, nowhere to store my cycling gear, have to drop my kids off, I have to be home early…we could go on. Those areas need attention for sure, but some of these are about perspective and simple travel planning.

There are also “quieter” routes we can use, and flexible working is also helping. People often cite “getting sweaty” as a barrier to cycling to work. Regularity will improve fitness in any physical activity but going at a gentle pace and wearing appropriate clothing also means we will be far less likely to sweat. I don’t sweat when I go to the shops because I walk, not run. You also don’t have to travel by foot, bike or public transport every day to help make a difference to your own health, climate change, congestion, air quality and safer streets – every journey counts.

Is it all a bed of roses? Well, no. There are lots of improvements needed in prioritisation and infrastructure and what I have noticed in the past decade is the barriers being placed to travelling by train with your bike. Pre and post Covid-19, I have to attend office locations in various places and some of these distances are over 40 miles away. The obvious choice is integrating bike trips with a train trip. Even if I did want to drive, parking at the sites is limited and congestion is enough to put me off. Some train journeys work out more expensive than taking a car, others cheaper, but I can do emails on the train and read for pleasure. Priceless as a busy parent.

Most service operators make you book your bike on the train in advance. That’s fine but it is a definite barrier since we don’t always know when we might have to attend the office or a meeting far in advance. Even if you book online, you have to collect paper tickets – so 20th century! For a recent journey involving one change and total travel time of 38 minutes, I received 16 paper tickets, two for me, 14 for my bike. That’s surely not sustainable or cost effective. Why can’t this be done as an e-ticket? If it was, this would give train operators a live update of bike spaces booked. Currently if you cancel your journey with a paper ticket, they still think there will be a bike on board and others can’t take that space.

Too many paper tickets. © James Adamson

For those who have tried taking a bike on a train and booked a place, I’m sure the experience of finding a train already full of bikes will resonate, as will not being able to book a place because it was fully booked only to find not a single bike board or alight for the whole journey. In instances where you have booked and the train is full, some guards let you on, some don’t. I understand the health and safety reasons for denying entry but why are there only two bike spaces, maybe four, at peak commuting hours? I have had experiences of cancelled services where I had a booking then being denied on board the next train because it was full of bikes; it’s simply not good enough.

Not enough space for bikes © James Adamson

Overall, I have found the guards to be polite and helpful and they are generally as bemused as cyclists are about the state of the provision for bikes on trains. The fact is that booking a bike should be as simple as booking a ticket and this is an essential step to making train travel more attractive for people who have more than a short walk at either end.

Then there’s the actual bike storage provision itself. Some of the spaces for “hanging” a bike up have clearly been designed by people who have little understanding of using a bike – getting two bikes hanging next to one another takes a Crystal maze effort and untangling them at your station can be stressful as people try to alight and board. Frustratingly you frequently find prams and luggage. People have children and luggage. That’s normal. It’s one of the remaining convenience benefits of train travel over air travel – take what you like and no need to book it in. But this often ends up being in the bike storage areas and locating passengers to move it can be difficult. Do you loiter with your bike in the vestibule, move the luggage, or call for help?

And if it’s not luggage it’s the big bin bag of single use coffee cups – apparently train designers failed to think about bin space. Imagine if you put a bin bag on a first-class seat? GWR have even gone as far as putting fold-down luggage racks IN the bike storage bays on their new Hitachi models – who has priority here? Who knows! This is especially frustrating when some of their trains have exemplary storage facilities.

I have seen archive footage of bike compartments on British trains, with guards helping load and unload bikes at stations. In other countries, platform and train staff help you board and are happy to have your custom. In the UK it sometimes feels like you are carrying a lethal object on board with all the hoops you have to jump through. Recently, in Paris, I saw two cyclists taking bikes on the RER (light rail) at rush hour with no issues and not a bother from passengers or staff. It brought back memories of living in Newcastle and the absolute “impossibility” of having bikes on the Metro system there. It’s a mindset. It can be done. We need to plan for it and make it happen. No excuses. The reality is we all need to be doing all we can to help improve our health, the health of others and the health of the planet. Active travel offers huge potential to help reach net zero and improve population health long-term. I cycle to work and use the train as an intermediate step, but I can understand why people just give up. The solutions are simple and there is plenty of expertise available to advise train operators if they want it. I won’t stop my commute – it’s an ethical and health choice. I just wish more people could join me because it was easy, not because they fancy a challenge as hard as the Tour de France.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Stand clear of the doors please

Road Transport and Health

Post by Prof. Jenny Mindell, THSG Co-Chair (Science)

Transport provides many benefits

Access: We often talk about the harms that motorised traffic causes and forget about the benefits! Transport policies should help people travel from where they are to where they need or want to be – ideally, without causing problems for other people. Travel provides access to goods, services, and people. This is important for a good quality of life and for health and wellbeing. In particular, travel provides access to employment, education, shops, health and other services, social support networks, and recreation.

Physical activity: Walking, cycling, rollerblading and scooting (but not e-scooters) are not only forms of transport but also provide physical activity. Being active when traveling is an easy way to meet the recommendations for physical activity (150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes weekly of vigorous exercise).

Public transport (train, tram, light rail, bus, coach, cable car) is often included as active travel because most people walk or cycle to and/or from the station or bus stop.

Active travel. © J.Mindell

Green and blue spaces (i.e. places with vegetation or water) are good for mental wellbeing. Transport may help people reach these places. A well-designed route can help people pass through green spaces or alongside blue spaces during their journeys to other places.

However, transport also has a wide range of harmful effects on health

Contamination: The World Health Organisation reports that outdoor air pollution causes 4 million deaths worldwide each year. Much of this pollution comes from motor vehicles.

Contamination: Heavy metals from vehicle exhaust pipes run off the tarmac roads and contaminate the water supply.

Cacophony: Noise from traffic is almost universal. It raises blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and strokes.

Road traffic. Image by Al Gг from Pixabay

Community severance occurs where the speed and/or amount of traffic makes it difficult for people to cross the road. It also occurs due to transport infrastructure, e.g. a motorway or a railway line. This stops people from obtaining the goods and services and meeting the people needed for a healthy life.

Carbon emissions: Transport is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global climate change and its impacts on health.

Crashes and collisions are the most important cause of death in children and young people. Fatality rates vary most by age, sex, and deprivation rather than by travel mode.

Couch potatoes. Car travel provides less than 1 minute of physical activity per trip, compared with an average of 16 minutes for walking and 18 minutes for cycling in the UK. (Source)

Congestion is another issue that will be discussed in a future blog.

Future blogs will discuss each of these benefits and harms in more detail. Also important is to consider how having poor mental and/or physical health affects the travel options people have.


In a car-dependent society, it tends to be the wealthier people who gain the benefits of travel. Disadvantaged groups are more likely to be exposed to the harms from motor vehicles. In a double whammy, they are also often more susceptible to the harmful effects. Future blogs will also consider the many ways that transport modes and travel policies contribute to – or reduce – socioeconomic and health inequalities. Where we live and how these places are designed are really important influences on our travel options and their impacts on health and inequalities.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Road Transport and Health

The THSG blog is back!

After a 7-year interruption, the Transport and Health Science Group blog is back! From today, this blog will publish contributions from THSG board and committe members and guests, on the links between transport and health and their policy implications. Stay tuned!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The THSG blog is back!

Changing Urban speed limit to 20mph

Go_20mph_reportGo towards changing the default urban speed limit to 20mph

A report has been produced by Blake (the road and safety charity) exploring the current evidence on 20mph speed limits and their effects on the pedestrians and cyclists.

While Britain has one of the best road safety records in Europe, per mile travelled, you are more likely to be killed on foot or bicycle than in many of our European neighbours.

If Britain walked and cycled as much as people in Sweden or the Netherlands, Britain would fall down the road safety rankings significantly. In other words, our road safety record is skewed by the fact that so few people walk and cycle compared to other countries.

Surveys indicate that danger from traffic is one of the main factors preventing families and commuters from walking and cycling. Britain also ranks among the lowest in Europe in terms of how well people know others in the local area.

This way there is much more that can be done to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, both to reduce casualties and enable more people to use these non-harmful, non-polluting, sociable and affordable modes of travel.

Key findings

  • Reducing the default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph across Britain would have a significant and meaningful impact in reducing crashes and serious injuries. Pedestrian and cyclist safety would particularly benefit.
  • As a worst-case scenario, it is reasonable to expect a 1mph reduction of average speeds with an associated 6% reduction in crashes and collisions in these areas.
  • It is reasonable to expect that reducing the default limit from 30mph to 20mph could aid wider efforts to encourage active and sustainable travel, and therefore help deliver significant health, wellbeing and environmental benefits.
  • The guidance provided by central government to local authorities on 20mph limits, while giving the councils the opportunity to introduce widespread 20mph
  • limits, does not show the leadership to make broader changes, and certain elements pose a significant barrier to some local authorities moving towards area-wide 20mph limits. This contributes to the implementation of 20mph limits across councils being mixed.
  • There are still unnecessary costs associated with local authorities implementing 20mph limits at local level (as opposed to a national change in the default limit), especially related to present signage regulations.

Full report click here

Original source Learning for Public Health West Midlands

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Changing Urban speed limit to 20mph

Fifth Regional Seminar on Active Travel

Fifth Regional Seminar on Active Travel
Active Travel – Better Towns Ride the Lights, Walk the Prom
co-hosted by Living Streets and North West Active Travel Network

Venue: The Solaris Centre, Blackpool

Wednesday 14 October 2015

The Speakers will include

Nick Davies (University of Central Lancashire) Economic benefits of active travel

Nick Cavill (Consultant) Health benefits of active travel

Tom Platt (Head of Policy, Living Streets) Walkable places – Current developments

Karen Stevens (Liverpool City Council) Bike Hire Schemes

Andy Howard (Transport for Greater Manchester) CCAG – Towards Velocity 2025

Jon Little (Waltham Forest Council) The Waltham Forrest Mini-Holland

Steve Essex (Transport Initiatives) Pedestrian-cycle interactions

Latif Patel (Blackpool Council) Crossings and signals phases at junction

Prior to the formal programme optional cycling and walking tours will be available from Blackpool North Station visiting sites of special traffic interest en route to the Solaris Centre

Lunch will be provided by Café Chicco at the Solaris Centre.


Standard: £50
Representatives of voluntary bodies: £25

Bookings can be registered at :

Deadline: Monday 5th October


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fifth Regional Seminar on Active Travel

Health and Transportation: Small scale area association

Journal of Transport & Health Volume 2, Issue 2, June 2015

Health and transportation: Small scale area association
Mehran Fasihozaman Langerudi, Mohammadian Abolfazl (Kouros), P.S. Sriraj


  • A methodology is developed to disaggregate county-level health data.
  • We have proposed built environment-related individual health condition models.
  • Iterative Proportional Fitting (IPF) approach can be used to disaggregate different data sources.


Public health, as a major factor influencing the livability and well-being of a community has been a subject of interest in many academic fields. It is postulated that public health has strong correlations with various factors including land development, urban form, and transportation system elements. However, due to scarcity of individual level and confidential health data, such analysis has been typically conducted in an aggregate level resulting in less accurate results due to aggregation bias. In this paper, a methodology is developed and applied to disaggregate an individual-level health data in county scale into smaller geography by using an iterative proportional fitting approach while maintaining the marginal distributions of the controlled variables. Then, the disaggregated data is used to estimate various models of individual health condition as a function of socio-demographic, built environment, and transportation system attributes. It is noteworthy that the proposed approach can be applied to disaggregate any aggregate data in an efficient way.

Free access click here

Origanal source SPAHG

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Health and Transportation: Small scale area association

Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Sarah Hanson, Andy Jones
9 November 2014

Regular physical activity positively impacts health potentially offering similar effects to some drug interventions in terms of mortality benefits. Indeed, it has been suggested as an alternative or adjunct to conventional drug therapy. Walking at a pace of 3–5 m/h (5–8 km/h) expends sufficient energy to be classified as moderate intensity2 and is an easy and accessible way of meeting physical activity recommendations.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have shown walking to have various health benefits including:

  •  positive effects on fitness
  • fatness and resting blood pressure
  • blood pressure control
  • weight loss
  • depression
  • cardiovascular disease risk prevention


To assess the health benefits of outdoor walking groups.

Systematic review and meta-analysis of walking group interventions examining differences in commonly used physiological, psychological and well-being outcomes between baseline and intervention end.

Data sources
Seven electronic databases, clinical trial registers, grey literature and reference lists in English language up to November 2013.

Eligibility criteria
Adults, group walking outdoors with outcomes directly attributable to the walking intervention.

Forty-two studies were identified involving 1843 participants. There is evidence that walking groups have wide-ranging health benefits. Meta-analysis showed statistically significant reductions in mean difference for systolic blood pressure −3.72 mm Hg (−5.28 to −2.17) and diastolic blood pressure −3.14 mm Hg (−4.15 to −2.13); resting heart rate −2.88 bpm (−4.13 to −1.64); body fat −1.31% (−2.10 to −0.52), body mass index −0.71 kg/m2 (−1.19 to −0.23), total cholesterol −0.11 mmol/L (−0.22 to −0.01) and statistically significant mean increases in VO2max of 2.66 mL/kg/min (1.67 3.65), the SF-36 (physical functioning) score 6.02 (0.51 to 11.53) and a 6 min walk time of 79.6 m (53.37–105.84).

A standardised mean difference showed a reduction in depression scores with an effect size of −0.67 (−0.97 to −0.38). The evidence was less clear for other outcomes such as waist circumference fasting glucose, SF-36 (mental health) and serum lipids such as high density lipids.

There were no notable adverse side effects reported in any of the studies.

Walking groups are effective and safe with good adherence and wide-ranging health benefits. They could be a promising intervention as an adjunct to other healthcare or as a proactive health-promoting activity.

Open Access
Original Source BJSM

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Does active commuting improve psychological wellbeing?

Does active commuting improve psychological wellbeing?
Longitudinal evidence from eighteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey
Adam Martin, Yevgeniy Goryakin, Marc Suhrcke



The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between active travel and psychological wellbeing.

  • Impact of commuting behaviour on wellbeing was explored using individual fixed effects analyses.
  • Compared to driving, wellbeing was higher when using active travel or public transport.
  • Use of active travel reduced the likelihood of two specific GHQ12 psychological symptoms.
  • Switching from car driving to active travel improved wellbeing.
  • Wellbeing increased with travel time for walkers, but decreased for drivers.


The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between active travel and psychological wellbeing.


This study used data on 17,985 adult commuters in eighteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey (1991/2–2008/9). Fixed effects regression models were used to investigate how travel mode choice, commuting time and switching to active travel impacted on overall psychological wellbeing and how (iv.) travel mode choice impacted on specific psychological symptoms included in the General Health Questionnaire.


After accounting for changes in individual-level socioeconomic characteristics and potential confounding variables relating to work, residence and health, significant associations were observed between overall psychological wellbeing (on a 36-point Likert scale) and (i.) active travel (0.185, 95% CI: 0.048 to 0.321) and public transport (0.195, 95% CI: 0.035 to 0.355) when compared to car travel, (ii.) time spent (per 10 minute change) walking (0.083, 95% CI: 0.003 to 0.163) and driving (−0.033, 95% CI: −0.064 to −0.001), and (iii.) switching from car travel to active travel (0.479, 95% CI: 0.199 to 0.758). Active travel was also associated with reductions in the odds of experiencing two specific psychological symptoms when compared to car travel.


The positive psychological wellbeing effects identified in this study should be considered in cost–benefit assessments of interventions seeking to promote active travel

Full article click here (Open Access)

Original source Michael Evans

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Does active commuting improve psychological wellbeing?