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Older people who ride the bus for free are happier

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Posted May 3, 2019

Mobility is very important to us as humans. We want to move around, reach different parts of the city and generally enjoy our independency. However, as people age they become limited in this regard, because they stop driving and have to live from the retirement pension. Now scientists found that those elderly who have concessionary bus passes are much happier.

Free bus passes for elderly improve their wellbeing and mental health. Image credit: Atomic Taco via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Free bus travel for elderly is implemented in several countries. It is a way for older people to maintain a part of their independence and mobility. However, it is rather costly – in England alone this programme costs about £1.17 billion a year. Naturally, some doubt the necessity of the service and call for reviewing the rules. Scientists say that free bus travel is very useful and beneficial for elderly.

Researchers believe that concessionary bus passes make older adults happier. They allow people to maintain their active lifestyle, to see new places and do new things. Free bus travel also helps maintaining social relations, which is extremely beneficial in terms of mental health. Having in mind how rapidly population is ageing, we should be considerate about the mental health of older adults.

Scientists analysed data from 5,861 people in England over the age of 62. In England, people who are older than 62 are able to get the free bus pass and travel around free of charge. 85 % of the people analysed in this study had such passes. 37% of the bus pass holders were less likely to be sedentary on a weekly basis and a third less likely to be socially isolated. Meanwhile those who did not own concessionary bus passes scored 11.8% higher in a survey designed to assess depressive symptoms. However, scientists were not able to identify the cause and effect relation.

The relation between easier traveling and better wellbeing is probably bidirectional. Happier people tend to move around more and moving around makes people happier. In any case, free bus passes for elderly help maintaining that mobility, partaking in various interesting activities and preventing social isolation. Dr Sarah Jackson, lead author of the study, said: “because mental health has knock-on effects for physical health, maintaining wellbeing is also likely to help people stay physically healthy in later life, reducing the financial costs associated with an ageing population”.

Sure, those free bus passes cost tax payers some money. But older people already earned them. And we’re going to be old as well. In fact, population is rapidly ageing, which will present many different challenges. Improving wellbeing and mental health of older people will help creating a happier society.

 

Source: UCL

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