Ahead of World Mental Health Day, new research by the University of Leeds, University of Cambridge and Voi aims to generate fresh insights on the potential impact of e-scooters on personal wellbeing.
Whilst the pandemic and other challenges have meant a tough year for many in terms of mental health, World Mental Health Day brings cause for optimism as it highlights innovative and simple ways that everyone can improve mental health.
In the UK, new research involving Voi, the University of Leeds and University of Cambridge aims to generate fresh insights on the potential impacts of e-scooters on personal wellbeing – including mental health and physical wellbeing. The way in which we travel as part of our regular every day activity and for leisure has established links to a broad range of health impacts, including: levels of obesity, exposure to respiratory disease and, for some types of journey, personal stress. The research team are seeking to answer questions about whether, and how, the use of e-scooters contributes to mental wellbeing, addressing a gap in the research to date.
A number of factors associated with use of e-scooters may impact, positively or otherwise, on mental health. For example, users may be more likely to take in green areas such as parks or trees, or waterfront areas on their journey, have more choice and autonomy on the way they travel, and have greater exposure to open air and sunlight. However they might also need to be particularly aware of safety considerations, the level of traffic and pedestrians.
Professor Susan Grant-Muller (Chair in Technologies & Informatics at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds), Dr Jenna Panter and Professor James Woodcock (MRC Epidemiology Unit and CEDAR, University of Cambridge) have now completed the first stage of the research. Over 2,000 users of Voi scooters have taken part in the research so far, responding to a survey about their experiences in using e-scooters.
In considering mental health and broader aspects of wellbeing the study has asked a number of questions including measures of individual general health and types of journeys made with and without e-scooters. Participants were also asked to self-report on if, and how, their mental health, stress levels and sense of wellbeing changed in association with e-scooter use.
Approximately 25% of the respondents had used an e-scooter only once. This has been important information to capture as it should be expected that use of a new way of travelling might be initially challenging, but then to become familiar as use increases. The team have been pleased to see considerable diversity in the survey participants, including those from lower income groups, different ethnicities and a broad age spectrum.
Given that this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “Mental Health in an Unequal World” and, at Voi, social inclusion and territorial equity are fundamental pillars of our sustainability policy, we are particularly delighted to see a diverse range of people using our e-scooters.
Analysis of the responses is now underway, but preliminary analysis indicates findings which are likely to be of interest to those concerned with population wellbeing. Prof Grant-Muller reports, ‘the early indications are that self-reported stress, anxiety and mood associated with e-scooter use are improved for many e-scooter users. We are keen to understand which sub-groups of users feel either most or least benefit and how this fits within a wider set of potential health impacts, including those associated with activity, air quality and safety.’
The research continues into early 2022, with further findings to be reported towards the end of 2021. In the meantime, check out our video, stay well and ‘Don’t stop Moving!’.