Social isolation and physical activity mediate associations between free bus travel and wellbeing among older adults in England

Sarah E. Jackson, Josh A Firth, Joseph Firth, Nicola Veronese, Trish Gorely, Igor Grabovac, Lin Yang, Lee Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Background:Aims of this study were: (i) to examine relationships between free bus travel andwellbeing, and (ii) to assess the extent to which these associations can be explained by two keypotential mediators: social isolation and physical activity.Methods:Data were from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (n= 5861). Linear regressionmodels tested associations between (i) concessionary bus pass (CBP) ownership and (ii) fre-quency of CBP use and three measures of wellbeing (quality of life, life satisfaction, depressivesymptoms), adjusting for age, sex, marital status, socioeconomic status and limiting long-standing illness. Mediation analyses tested the role of (i) social isolation and (ii) physical activityin each association between CBP ownership/use and wellbeing.Results:Ownership and use of a CBP was significantly associated with better quality of life (bothp< 0.001), higher life satisfaction (bothp< 0.01) and fewer depressive symptoms (bothp< 0.01). Mediation models revealed significant indirect associations of CBP ownership (allp< 0.001) and use (allp< 0.05) via social isolation on wellbeing. There were also significantindirect associations of CBP ownership (allp< 0.01) and use (allp< 0.001) via physical ac-tivity on wellbeing. Social isolation explained 7.7–20.1% of the total association between free bustravel and wellbeing, and physical activity explained 9.0–17.4%.Conclusions:Ownership and use of a CBP are associated with better quality of life, higher lifesatisfaction, and fewer depressive symptoms in older adults in England. Associations between free bus travel and wellbeing are partly explained by an increase in physical activity and a re-duction in social isolation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-284
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


  • Bus travel, Public transport, Older adults, Wellbeing, Social isolation, Physical activity, Depression, Quality of life, Public health


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