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Free bus passes, use of public transport and obesity among older people in England
  1. Elizabeth Webb1,2,
  2. Gopalakrishnan Netuveli1,2,
  3. Christopher Millett2
  1. 1ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health
  2. 2Department for Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elizabeth Webb, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, Charing Cross Campus, Reynolds Building, London W6 8RP, UK; elizabeth.a.webb{at}


Background All residents of England aged 60 years and older became entitled to free travel on local buses on 1 April 2006. This study examines the impact of this policy on public transport use, a mode of active transport and levels of obesity.

Methods Logistic regression analyses using three waves of data (2004, 2006 and 2008) from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Our main outcome measures were changes in self-reported public transport use, body mass index, waist circumference and obesity.

Results Eligibility for free bus travel was associated with increased use (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.51, 95% CI 1.14 to 2.00) of public transport among older people. Older people who used public transport had reduced odds of being obese in 2008 compared with those who did not (AOR 0.75, 95% CI 0.65 to 0.86), as did those who were eligible for free local bus travel (AOR 0.75, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.97). Older people who used public transport had reduced odds of becoming obese between 2004 and 2008 (AOR 0.79, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.98).

Conclusion The introduction of free bus travel for older residents of England appears to have increased public transport use and may have conferred a protective effect against obesity.

  • Obesity EPI
  • old age
  • transport RB

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  • Funding EW and GN are funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, Polaris House North Star Avenue, Swindon, SN2 1UJ), RES-596-28-0001. CM is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE, Northavon House, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QD) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR, Room 132, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NS).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.