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Scared behind the wheel: what impact does driving anxiety have on the health and well-being of young older adults?

  • Megan E. Hempel (a1), Joanne E. Taylor (a1), Martin J. Connolly (a2) (a3), Fiona M. Alpass (a1) and Christine V. Stephens (a1)...



Driving anxiety can range from driving reluctance to driving phobia, and 20% of young older adults experience mild driving anxiety, whereas 6% report moderate to severe driving anxiety. However, we do not know what impact driving anxiety has on health and well-being, especially among older drivers. This is problematic because there is a growing proportion of older adult drivers and a potential for driving anxiety to result in premature driving cessation that can impact on health and mortality. The purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of driving anxiety on young older adults’ health and well-being.


Data were taken from a longitudinal study of health and aging that included 2,473 young older adults aged 55–70 years. The outcome measures were mental and physical health (SF-12) and quality of life (WHOQOL-8).


Hierarchical multiple regression analyses demonstrated that driving anxiety was associated with poorer mental health, physical health, and quality of life, over and above the effect of socio-demographic variables. Sex moderated the effect of driving anxiety on mental health and quality of life in that, as driving anxiety increased, men and women were more likely to have lower mental health and quality of life, but women were more likely to have higher scores compared to men.


Further research is needed to investigate whether driving anxiety contributes to premature driving cessation. If so, self-regulation of driving and treating driving anxiety could be important in preventing or reducing the declines in health and quality of life associated with driving cessation for older adults affected by driving anxiety.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Joanne E. Taylor, School of Psychology, Private Bag 11–222, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Phone: +64 6 951 8068 (DDI) or +64 6 356 9099 extension 85068; Fax: +64 6 350 5673. Email:


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