23 Jun 2018

New Zealanders are anxious drivers - study

6:32 am on 23 June 2018

Two-thirds of New Zealanders feel anxiety while driving a vehicle, a new study has found.

Driving school. Learning to drive a car. (File Photo)

Photo: 123rf

The research, conducted by Massey University, surveyed more than 400 New Zealand drivers between the ages of 18 to 87, with 52 percent reporting mild anxiety.

A further 16 percent reported feeling moderate to severe anxiety and only 31 percent said they felt no anxiety at all.

Massey University School of Psychology's Dr Joanne Taylor said despite it being both highly treatable and common, people often didn't seek help.

"There seems to be quite a lot of stigma about seeking help for this, which is very in line with stigma associated with general mental health issues and help seeking.

If left untreated it could complicate many areas of their lives, she said.

"They may not be able to accept a job invitation where they have a commute, or they might not be able to visit friends or family as much because of it."

Anxiety could lead to exaggerated safety behaviour, such as slow driving and uncertainty when changing lanes, possibly creating further dangers on the road.

Among the causes of anxiety were fear of road rage from other drivers and a lack of confidence in driving capabilities.

Women reported higher levels of driving anxiety but this was congruent with wider representation mental health statistics, Dr Tylor said.

"However, in one study we did a few years ago, with a group of older adults, men had a stronger association between driving anxiety and their health and wellbeing than women did."

She hoped the research showed people they were not alone and there were things they could do to address anxiety.

"Any good psychologist can be of help and if people do have a concern about their confidence behind the wheel, or there's an issue with their skills, finding a supportive driving instructor might be another way to seek help."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs