‘Free’ bus passes bring health benefits

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The study found an increase in bus pass holders walking three or more times per week, particularly among over 70s women in urban areas
The study found an increase in bus
pass holders walking three or more
times per week, particularly among
over 70s women in urban areas

A study has found free bus passes encourage the over-60s to be more physically active, whether they are poor or wealthy.

Researchers analysed data on the travel habits of 16,900 people over four years. They said the scheme “may offer value for money” among older people.

The Imperial College London study examined data from the National Travel Survey from 2005, the year before free bus passes were introduced, until 2008. They looked at the travel diaries of 11,218 people with a free bus pass and 5,693 without a pass.

The percentage of respondents with a free bus pass increased from 56.8% to 74.7% between 2005 and 2008. Over the same period there was an increase in the percentage of pass holders walking three or more times a week and the study found these people were more likely to undertake any ‘active travel.’

After analysing different subgroups of pass holders, the study found women over the age of 70 and living in urban areas were significantly more likely to use buses and walk three or more times a week than those without passes.

Sophie Coronini-Cronberg, who led the study, said: “The health benefits of the scheme should be taken in to consideration when deciding its future. Our study found the benefits of the policy could be maximized by looking at other barriers to public transport use such as poor access and inconvenience, ease of car use, and poor pedestrian access of neighbourhoods.”