Life events and their association with changes in the frequency of transport use in a large UK sample

Colin Whittle, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Nicholas Nash, Wouter Poortinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


From a mobility biographies perspective, and in line with the habit discontinuities literature, consistency in travel behaviours is context dependent and as such, will be more amenable to change following changes in context that disrupt habitual travel behaviour. Using the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), a large-scale, longitudinal, national survey, this study investigates associations between disruption (in the form of life events and transport specific events) and changes in the frequency of car, bus, train, and bicycle use over a two-year period. The analysis extends previous research in this area by considering changes in the frequency of travel for all purposes, not only for commuting. Further, the study tested the self-activation hypothesis through an interaction between experiencing a life event and environmental concern. The results show that residential relocation and parenthood were associated with significant changes in frequency of travel mode use. Relocation showed the most consistent pattern away from car, bus, train, and cycling, while parenthood showed a consistently lower likelihood of increasing use of these modes (except car), but no greater likelihood of decreasing. Transport specific events often accounted for greater likelihood of change in travel mode use – for example, obtaining a driving license, changing the number of cars in the household, and changing to/from urban settings had large associations with changes in travel behaviours – although these were not consistent across modes. Overall, this suggests that changes in the use of the different transport modes were differentially susceptible to the life event and transport specific events.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-287
Number of pages15
JournalTravel Behaviour and Society
Early online date29 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the European Research Council [grant number 820235].


  • Behaviour change
  • Life events
  • Mobility biographies
  • Moments of change
  • Parenthood
  • Residential relocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation


Dive into the research topics of 'Life events and their association with changes in the frequency of transport use in a large UK sample'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this