As the world grappled with lockdowns and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University conducted an extensive study to elucidate the link between changes in human mobility and the impact of lifestyle-related diseases on medical costs.
Dr. Haruka Kato and Professor Atsushi Takizawa from the Graduate School of Human Life and Ecology at Osaka Metropolitan University were concerned about the negative health impacts resulting from the restriction of human mobility, and approached the problem from a population health perspective. Using boosted tree analysis, the researchers analyzed the nonlinear relationship between human mobility types and the economic impact on lifestyle-related diseases in Japan.
The results showed that medical costs were influenced differently by walking, driving, and public transportation depending on the prefecture type. A 70% increase in walking reduced medical costs for lifestyle-related diseases, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. In metropolitan prefectures, the overall effect on medical costs was higher for walking and public transportation. Additionally, medical costs decreased by over 110% with an increase in the use of public transportation. In non-metropolitan prefectures, the overall effect of public transportation was lower than that of driving, and medical costs increased by 80-160%. These results are significant as they provide insights and guidelines for preparing for future pandemics, indicating the standard value for each type of human mobility in urban and non-urban prefectures.
Based on the standard values, our results provide valuable insights for governments and policymakers. They indicate the need for further measures beyond restricting walking and public transportation during a pandemic. We also point to the need for more pedestrian-friendly cities and sustainable urban planning where people can live without cars and opt for public transportation, especially in metropolitan areas.
Dr. Haruka Kato, Graduate School of Human Life and Ecology at Osaka Metropolitan University
Their findings were published in the Journal of Transport & Health.
Osaka Metropolitan University
Kato, H. & Takizawa, A. (2024). Human mobility and medical costs of lifestyle-related diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional study in Japan. Journal of Transport & Health. doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2023.101728.