Motorists face hidden long-term mental health problems, new research has suggested.
Dr David Lewis, the psychologist credited with coining the phrase “road rage”, warned stresses such as congestion and delays can raise blood pressure and lead to more serious issues further down the line.
However, travelling by bus could reduce mental stress by up to a third and produce long-term health benefits, he said.
Dr Lewis, of the University of Sussex, conducted an experiment with 30 commuters who made identical or similar trips as bus passengers and car drivers.
Each time, he recorded their heart rate and Electro-Dermal Response (EDR) which measures changes in the electrical properties of the skin in response to anxiety.
The findings revealed average stress levels were 33% lower on bus journeys.
“EDR can be a hidden stress - it’s not as visible as ‘white knuckle driving’ or audible as road rage,” he said.
“This type of stress can have long-term physiological and emotional implications. Boarding a bus can produce significant long-term health benefits.”
Alongside the data he recorded, Dr Lewis also asked participants to rank their stress levels for each trip.
Some 93% said they found driving more stressful.
“This study shows that driving in congested traffic now outweighs any previous benefits that driving in a private car once gave,” Dr Lewis added.
He said there were three key factors which make driving more stressful.
These included heavy traffic which requires the brain to work harder, congestion which can raise blood pressure and cause physical tension, and a sense of ‘wasting one’s life’ because drivers are unable to work or read as they might do on a bus.
He also said the relief of trusting someone else to be in charge of the journey played a key part in making bus travel less stressful.
The research has been published as part of the Greener Journeys campaign which is designed to shift a billion car journeys to the bus by 2014.