Associations between active travel to work and overweight, hypertension and diabetes in the United Kingdom

Anthony Laverty, Imperial College London

Anthony Laverty

Co Authors
Elizabeth Webb; Jenny Mindell; Christopher Millett

Cardiovascular Disease; Active Travel; Transport

Background and purpose Increasing active travel (walking, cycling, or using public transport) is increasingly seen as integral to strategies to raise physical activity levels. This study examined: (1) socio-demographic correlates of active travel to work; (2) associations between active travel and cardiovascular risk factors in the United Kingdom.

Methods Data comes from Understanding Society, a nationally representative survey of United Kingdom residents in 2009/2011. Data come from the 20,000 respondents to the first wave of the survey who were aged 16 – 65 years and in work. Multinomial logistic regression assessed associations between socio-demographic factors and mode of transport to work. Logistic regression was used to examine associations between mode of travel and overweight/obesity, having hypertension or diabetes.

Results 69% of participants traveled to work using private transport, with public transport, walking and cycling used by 16%, 12% and 3% respectively. Use of any active travel was more likely in participants living in London. Black participants were more likely to walk (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) =1.41, 95%CI 1.08-1.84) or take public transport (AOR=2.34, 95%CI 1.88-2.90) to work than white participants. Using public transport, walking or cycling to work was associated with a lower likelihood of being overweight (AOR=0.85, 95%CI 0.77-0.95 for walking). Walking or cycling were associated with a lower likelihood of having diabetes; and walking with lower likelihood of having hypertension than private transport (AOR=0.83, 95%CI 0.71-0.97).

Conclusions There are wide variations in the mode of travel to work across regions and socio-demographic groups in the United Kingdom. The protective association between active travel and cardiovascular risk demonstrated in this nationally representative study adds to growing evidence that a concerted policy focus in this area will benefit population health.