London: Feeling lonely? Riding your bicycles may not only improve your general and mental health, but also increase social interaction, says a study.
The study showed that cycling is the healthiest mode of transport and is associated with better self-perceived general health, better mental health, greater vitality, lower self-perceived stress and fewer feelings of loneliness.
"The findings suggest that active transport --especially cycling-- should be encouraged in order to improve health and increase social interaction," said lead author Avila Palencia from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Barcelona, Spain.
The second most beneficial transport mode, walking, was associated with good self-perceived general health, greater vitality, and more contact with friends and/or family.
"Ours is the first study to associate the use of multiple urban transport modes with health effects such as mental health and social contact. It also allowed us to highlight the positive effect of walking, which in previous studies was not very conclusive," she added.
The study, published in the journal Environment International, was carried out in seven European cities: Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Orebro, Rome, Vienna and Zurich and included more than 8,800 people.
The transport modes assessed in the study were car, motorbike, public transport, bicycle, electric bicycle and walking.
Driving and public-transport use were associated with poor self-perceived general health, while cars were linked with fewer feelings of loneliness.
"This result is most likely due to the fact that the study population drove very infrequently and most journeys by car were probably for social purposes, such as visiting a family member or a friend," the researchers explained.
The study stressed on the need for "an integrated approach to urban planning, transport planning and public health is needed in order to develop policies that promote active transport, such as adding more segregated cycle lanes for a better environment for cyclists," the researchers noted.