Objectives: We explored whether modes of transport (cycling, walking, public transport or private vehicle) between home and school are associated with mental well-being in children aged 10–17 years, participating in the Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study.
Methods: Scores on the World Health Organization Well-being Index and the Mental Health Inventory five-item versions, self-reported life satisfaction, happiness with self, body satisfaction, excellent self-rated health, and multiple health complaints of 9,077 schoolchildren (mean age: 13.99 ± 1.91 years, percentage girls: 52.2%) were compared across modes of transport, unadjusted and adjusted for gender, age, family affluence and area of residence.
Results: Those who reported using public transport reported poorer mental well-being than those using other means of transport, but adjusting for sociodemographic variables obscured these differences. The only exception was excellent health, where children who cycled outperformed the other three groups, even after adjustment for sociodemographic variables.
Conclusions: Cycling can improve well-being in children. However, in promotion of cycling, social and environmental determinants and inequalities which influence adolescents’ and their parents’ decisions on modes of transport, need to be considered.