HEG Newsletter

Issue 2 : January 2015

New paper shows walking or cycling to work may be better for people's psychological wellbeing than driving to work

Research carried out by the Health Economics Group at UEA using data from eighteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) reveals that people who stopped driving and started walking or cycling to work benefited from improved wellbeing.  In particular, active commuters felt better able to concentrate and were less under strain than if they travelled by car.  Experts also found that travelling on public transport is better for people's psychological wellbeing than driving.  These benefits come on top of the physical health benefits of walking and cycling that are already widely documented.

Lead researcher Adam Martin said: "One surprising finding was that commuters reported feeling better when travelling by public transport, compared to driving. You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress. But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up."

The data supported analysis of almost 18,000 18-65 year-old commuters in Britain and allowed the researchers to account for numerous factors known to affect wellbeing, including income, having children, moving house or job, and relationship changes.  The study also shows commute time to be important.

Adam Martin said: "Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological wellbeing. And correspondingly, people feel better when they have a longer walk to work."

"This research shows that if new projects such as London's proposed segregated cycleways, or public transport schemes such as Crossrail, were to encourage commuters to walk or cycle more regularly, then there could be noticeable mental health benefits."

The paper ‘Does active commuting improve psychological wellbeing? Longitudinal evidence from eighteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey' was published in the journal Preventive Medicine on Monday, 15th September.  The findings were reported across the national media, including on ‘BBC Breakfast' and BBC News online.

HEG Newsletter

Issue 1 : January 2014 [PDF 1649KB]

Ban on alcohol multi-buy promotions in Scotland did not reduce amount of alcohol purchased

Banning multi-buy promotions for alcohol, implemented in Scotland in October 2011 as part of the Alcohol Act 2010, failed to reduce the amount of alcohol purchased - according to a new study.
The research, conducted by the Behaviour and Health Research Unit - a collaboration between the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge - is published in the leading academic journal Addiction.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.12419/abstract

See the UEA press release at:  http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2013/November/multi-buy-research

Is cherry-picking disability data at all fruitful?

The study by Professor Ruth Hancock and Dr Marcello Morciano from University of East Anglia, with Professor Steve Pudney from the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Dr Francesca Zantomio from University of Venice investigates how well targeted a particular disability benefit – Attendance Allowance (AA) – is on people in greatest need. The research also highlights the ‘danger of cherry-picking' one or more specific self-reported disability indicators in drawing conclusions on the target efficiency of publicly available programs available for disabled people over the age of 65.


The study has been issued in the HEG working paper series (HEG wp 13-03):


Long-term care funding in England

The cost implications of the UK government's recent plans to reform the funding system for care and support in England are analysed in a new research paper, which also considers the effects of options to give more help to lower income care home residents.

The paper, by the University of East Anglia and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), provides detailed estimates of the public expenditure costs of the government's plans. It projects that the government's current proposals, with a cap of £75,000, would add £2 billion (2010 prices) to public expenditure by 2030. This is in contrast to a projected extra £3.3 billion cost of the Dilnot Commission's proposals, which had recommended a cap of £35,000.

Under the current system people with savings above an upper threshold of £23,250 are not generally eligible for publicly funded care and support. There is also a lower threshold of £14,250 below which savings are completely disregarded in the means test for social care. The Dilnot Commission recommended a substantial increase in the upper threshold for care home residents and a cap – that is a lifetime limit – on people's liability to meet the costs of their care.

Higher income care home residents gain the most from the government plans - the richest fifth of residents aged 85 and over gain £52 a week on average, compared to £20 for the poorest fifth.

The research shows that changes to how capital is treated in the means test for care home residents who have assets below the upper threshold would benefit lower income care home residents. The government plans to increase this threshold from £23,250 to £118,000 in 2016. The paper shows the effects of either increasing the lower capital threshold to £41,600 or halving the rate of user charge levied in respect of savings between the two thresholds from £1 per week per £250 of assets to £1 per week per £500 of assets.

Lower income care home residents would gain since they are more likely than those with higher incomes to have assets in the range affected by these options. The total cost of either of these changes would be approximately an additional £150 million by 2030.

Professor Ruth Hancock, of UEA's Health Economics Group, said: "We estimate that for a modest increase in public costs, the government's reforms could be made more beneficial to lower income care home residents. We hope that the government and other stakeholders will study our analysis and that, if further resources become available for reforming the funding system, they will consider the two variants we have examined."

Raphael Wittenberg, Principal Research Fellow at LSE's Personal Social Services Research Unit, said: "The government's reforms will, we estimate, directly help over 100,000 care home residents at any time. They will tend to provide greater benefit to relatively better off older people, primarily because they currently have to pay the most for their care. Our research highlights two possible ways to modify the reforms, if resources permitted, in order to provide more help for those on relatively low to modest means."

The paper Long-term care funding in England: an analysis of the costs and distributional effects of potential reforms is available on the UEA Health Economics Group  and LSE Health and Social Care websites.

The Research Design Service

Renewed funding for the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Research Design Service (RDS) East of England (EoE) based in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

Contracts have been awarded to the NIHR RDS for a period of five years, commencing 1 October 2013. RDS EoE covers Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk and was launched in October 2008 as one of ten nationwide RDSs.

This £5 million contract is for the RDS EoE to continue for a further five years enabling researchers' access to expertise and support across the region.

Professor Dame Sally C. Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health, said:
"The NIHR is transforming research in the NHS to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. It is very important that researchers applying for NIHR funding can access the services provided by the RDS so that they can submit their best applications to the NIHR and others for funding."

Committed to the NIHR vision, the RDS EoE strives to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research by facilitating academic support and collaboration from Universities, NIHR organisations, NHS Trusts, Clinical Trials Units (CTUs) and third sector organisations.

The RDS EoE team has a strong track record of contributing to health and social care research on which to build.

Professor Gill Green, Director of NIHR RDS EoE, said:

"Continued funding of the RDS is a great opportunity to develop applied health research partnerships which incorporate the knowledge of the clinician, the research skills of the academic and the lived experience of the patient. We welcome enquiries and look forward to providing support to health researchers in Norfolk and Suffolk who are seeking funding from NIHR and other peer reviewed national funding agencies. The service is free, please get in touch."