Sydney Public Health School studies the road to poor health

As little as two hours a day behind the wheel is a potential risk factor for a range of poor health behaviours and outcomes, a University of Sydney study has shown.

University of Sydney Public Health School
Study public health at the University of Sydney

Published in PLOS One journal, the study of nearly 40,000 Australians aged 47-75 years found that people who drive for two hours or more per day are more likely to smoke, to be obese, and to be less physically active.

Lead author Dr Ding Ding, from the University of Sydney School of Public Health, said that “The research also reveals that people who drive for two hours or more daily are more likely to be stressed, sleep-deprived, have poorer self-rated health and quality of life.

“We found a dose-response relationship between driving time and a clustering of health risk behaviours, particularly smoking, physical inactivity, and insufficient sleep. The more time people spent driving, the greater their odds of having poor health and risk factors for poor health.”

People who drive more than two hours a day had 78% elevated risk of being obese, and 57% elevated risk of insufficient physical activity.

“The study’s findings are relevant to middle aged and older people who drive on a daily basis, for any reason, not just professional drivers,” Dr Ding said.

Elevated risks linked to driving two hours or more a day:
  • 78% obesity
  • 57% insufficient physical activity (less than 150 minutes per week)
  • 86% insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours a day)
  • 43% poor quality of life
  • 33% psychological distress
The observed link between driving time and health risks were independent of socioeconomic factors such as age, gender and education levels.

This cross-sectional study is among the first to examine the associations of driving time with a range of health behaviors and outcomes.

“Findings from the current study are consistent with some previous research that linked driving to cardio-metabolic health,” says Dr Ding. “However, further research is needed to confirm causality and to understand the mechanisms for the observed associations.

“This study highlights driving as a potential lifestyle risk factor for public health, and future lifestyle interventions and transportation planning initiatives may consider reducing driving time as a strategy for promoting health and well-being in the community.”

About the public health program at the University of Sydney

The public health program at the Sydney Public Health School focuses on the prevention of illness and the promotion of health, with practitioners playing a proactive rather than a reactive role, especially with regard to the coordination of relevant community resources. The program provides the opportunity to develop skills and acquire knowledge essential for the effective practice of public health, including the effective management of community health problems.

Program: Master of Public Health
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intakes: July 2014 and March 2015
Duration: 1 year
Application deadline: June 30 for the July 2014 intake; January 31, 2015 for the March 2015 intake. International applicants are strongly encouraged to apply as early as possible (a minimum of three months prior to the program’s start date).


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