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Int J Epidemiol. 2020 Jan 13. pii: dyz257. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyz257. [Epub ahead of print]

Is mode of transport to work associated with mortality in the working-age population? Repeated census-cohort studies in New Zealand 1996, 2001 and 2006.

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Department of Public Health, University of Otago Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.
The University of Melbourne, Centre for Health Equity | Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Parkville, Australia.
School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



Increasing active transport is proposed as a means to address both health and environmental issues. However, the associations between specific modes, such as cycling, walking and public transport, and health outcomes remain unclear. We examined the association between mode of travel to work and mortality.


Cohort studies of the entire New Zealand working population were created using 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses linked to mortality data. Mode of travel to work was that reported on census day, and causes of death examined were ischaemic heart disease and injury. Main analyses were Poisson regression models adjusted for socio-demographics. Sensitivity analyses included: additional adjustment for smoking in the 1996 and 2006 cohorts, and bias analysis about non-differential misclassification of cycling vs car use.


Walking (5%) and cycling (3%) to work were uncommon. Compared with people reporting using motor vehicles to travel to work, those cycling had a reduced all-cause mortality (ACM) in the socio-demographic adjusted models RR 0.87 (0.77-0.98). Those walking (0.97, 0.90-1.04) and taking public transport (0.96, 0.88-1.05) had no substantive difference in ACM. No mode of transport was associated with detectable statistically significant reductions in cause-specific mortality. Sensitivity analyses found weaker associations when adjusting for smoking and stronger associations correcting for likely non-differential misclassification of cycling.


This large cohort study supports an association between cycling to work and reduced ACM, but found no association for walking or public-transport use and imprecise cause-specific mortality patterns.


Mortality; active transport; bias analysis; cycling; public transport; walking


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