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Commute patterns and depression: Evidence from eleven Latin American cities

Authors: Xize Wang*, National University of Singapore, Daniel A. Rodriguez, University of California, Berkeley, Olga L. Sarmiento, Universidad de los Andes, Oscar Guaje, Universidad de los Andes
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Urban and Regional Planning, Transportation Geography
Keywords: Transportation, Commute, Health, Mental health, Depression, Latin America, Multilevel modeling
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Although travel behavior is expected to influence personal health, few studies have examined associations with mental health. This study examines associations between commute patterns and mental health using survey data in 11 Latin American cities. Using a survey conducted by the Development Bank of Latin America in 2016, we measured the presence of depressive symptoms using the 10-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CESD-10) screening scale. We used multilevel non-linear models to estimate the magnitude of the associations between commute patterns and depression risk, adjusting for socio-demographic and neighborhood characteristics. We found that, on average, every 10 more minutes of commuting time is associated with 0.5% (p = 0.011) higher probability of screening positively for depression. Furthermore, when decomposing commuting time into free-flow time and delay time, we found that delay and not free-flow time, were associated with depression. Specifically, every 10 additional minutes of traffic delay is associated with 0.8% (p = 0.037) higher probability of screening positively for depression. When examining differences by travel mode, we find that users of formal transit (e.g. subway or bus rapid transit) are 4.8% (p = 0.040) less likely to be screened positively for depression than drivers. In addition, not having transit stops within a 10-min walk from home is associated with higher probability of screening positively for depression. Our findings provide preliminary evidence that better access to mass transit systems and less congestion may be linked to better mental health among urban residents.

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