Article Text

Download PDFPDF

The relationship between bicycle commuting and perceived stress: a cross-sectional study
  1. Ione Avila-Palencia1,2,3,
  2. Audrey de Nazelle4,
  3. Tom Cole-Hunter5,
  4. David Donaire-Gonzalez1,3,6,
  5. Michael Jerrett7,
  6. Daniel A Rodriguez8,
  7. Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen1,2,3
  1. 1 ISGlobal, Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain
  2. 2 Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain
  3. 3 CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain
  4. 4 Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College of London, London, United Kingdom
  5. 5 Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
  6. 6 Physical Activity and Sports Sciences Department, Fundació Blanquerna, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain
  7. 7 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  8. 8 Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ione Avila-Palencia; ione.avila{at}


Introduction Active commuting — walking and bicycling for travel to and/or from work or educational addresses — may facilitate daily, routine physical activity. Several studies have investigated the relationship between active commuting and commuting stress; however, there are no studies examining the relationship between solely bicycle commuting and perceived stress, or studies that account for environmental determinants of bicycle commuting and stress. The current study evaluated the relationship between bicycle commuting, among working or studying adults in a dense urban setting, and perceived stress.

Methods A cross-sectional study was performed with 788 adults who regularly travelled to work or study locations (excluding those who only commuted on foot) in Barcelona, Spain. Participants responded to a comprehensive telephone survey concerning their travel behaviour from June 2011 through to May 2012. Participants were categorised as either bicycle commuters or non-bicycle commuters, and (based on the Perceived Stress Scale, PSS-4) as either stressed or non-stressed. Multivariate Poisson regression with robust variance models of stress status based on exposures with bicycle commuting were estimated and adjusted for potential confounders.

Results Bicycle commuters had significantly lower risk of being stressed than non-bicycle commuters (Relative Risk; RR (95% CI)=0.73 (0.60 to 0.89), p=0.001). Bicycle commuters who bicycled 4 days per week (RR (95% CI)=0.42 (0.24 to 0.73), p=0.002) and those who bicycled 5 or more days per week (RR (95% CI)=0.57 (0.42 to 0.77), p<0.001) had lower risk of being stressed than those who bicycled less than 4 days. This relationship remained statistically significant after adjusting for individual and environmental confounders and when using different cut-offs of perceived stress.

Conclusions Stress reduction may be an important consequence of routine bicycle use and should be considered by decision makers as another potential benefit of its promotion.

  • Bicycling
  • Commuting
  • Physical activity
  • Stress
  • Survey

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors MJN and AdN obtained the funding and designed the study. IAP conducted the analyses and drafted this version of the paper and received input from all the authors. All authors read and commented on the paper and agreed with the final version.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Clinical Research Ethical Committee of the Parc de Salut Mar (CEIC-Parc de Salut Mar).

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

  • Data sharing statement Extra data are available by emailing the corresponding author (IAP: