, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 493–513 | Cite as

Subjective well-being and travel: retrospect and prospect

  • Patricia L. MokhtarianEmail author


Although the improvement of well-being is often an implicitly-assumed goal of many, if not most, public policies, the study of subjective well-being (SWB) and travel has so far been confined to a relatively small segment of the travel behavior community. Accordingly, one main purpose of this paper is to introduce a larger share of the community to some fundamental SWB-related concepts and their application in transportation research, with the goal of attracting others to this rewarding area of study. At the same time, however, I also hope to offer some useful reflections to those already working in this field. After discussing some basic issues of terminology and measurement of SWB, I present from the literature four conceptual models relating travel and subjective well-being. Following one of those models, I review five ways in which travel can influence well-being. I conclude by examining some challenges associated with assessing the impacts of travel on well-being, as well as challenges associated with applying what we learn to policy.


Quality of life Experiences while traveling Travel-based multitasking Out-of-home activities Positive utility of travel Motility 



This paper is based on a keynote talk delivered at the 14th triennial conference of the International Association for Travel Behaviour Research, Windsor, UK, July 2015. As a relative newcomer to the study of SWB per se, I am grateful for the insightful suggestions offered by veteran scholars Tommy Gärling and Margareta Friman. Comments by Jonas De Vos and Atiyya Shaw were also very helpful in improving an earlier draft.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

I hereby affirm that there is no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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