Traveling to see friends and family can help improve a person’s health, a new study suggests.
People who leave their local community are more likely to report good health compared to those who stay closer to home, the researchers said.
The variety of places visited and the frequency with which people travel are also important factors, according to academics at University College London (UCL).
Those who traveled more than 15 miles from home were more likely to report good health, they found.
The researchers also found that those who traveled to a wider variety of places were more likely to see friends and family, with greater social participation linked to better health outcomes.
Lead author Dr Paulo Anciaes, from UCL Bartlett’s School of Environment, Energy and Resources, said: “There are several hypotheses about the link between contacts with family and friends and better health.
“It reduces stress, the probability of depression and other mental health problems.
“Family and friends can detect symptoms and remember or give advice about check-ups, hospital appointments and healthy habits.
“People can also see family and friends for healthy activities they wouldn’t do on their own, like long walks. And talking to people is also an exercise for the brain.
“There are several other explanations, but most of the evidence shows that contacts with family and friends are good for health. In our article we also found a link, but we did not investigate the reasons for the link.”
In the new paper, published in the journal Transport and Health, academics examined data from more than 3,000 people living in communities in the north of England.
The authors examined limitations to travel outside the local area, such as a lack of adequate public transport; travel frequency; the number of different places visited; distance traveled; car use and public transport use and compared these factors with people’s self-reported health scores.
They found that the link between self-reported good health and travel limitations was strongest among those aged 55 and over.
Dr Anciaes added: “People over the age of 55 are more likely to face other travel constraints, such as limited mobility, and are also more likely to suffer from loneliness.
“In the North of England, rural and suburban areas with limited access options are more likely to experience population loss as young people move to cities in search of work and good travel options.
“Meanwhile, older generations are left behind in these areas with limited transportation options. The variety of places they can visit is low, leading to lower social participation and lower levels of general health.
“The results of this study emphasize the need for public policies that reduce travel restrictions in the region, providing better public and private transportation options that allow for more frequent and longer trips.”