Pushed back, pulled forward: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on young adults’ life plans and future mobility

Alexa Delbosc, Laura McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to how people live, work and travel. There has been a recent outburst of research on the short-term impacts that the pandemic has had on travel behaviour. However, the long-term impact of the pandemic on travel behaviour is still uncertain and difficult to predict. In particular, young adults are facing some of the most significant disruptions from the pandemic; these disruptions are likely to have long-term impacts on their lives. This study aims to unpack the direct and indirect effects that COVID-19 may have on the travel behaviour of young adults. It does this through in-depth interviews with 26 young adults living in Melbourne and Victoria, Australia. Interviews suggest that while the pandemic has had significant impacts on the short-term travel behaviour of all young adults, the long-term impacts are more complex and mediated by how they are moving through key life milestones. Many respondents are relatively unimpacted by the pandemic. Others have faced a significant disruption to their lives. Those who had planned to live or work overseas have found their life plans ‘accelerated’, which may also accelerate their dependence on the car. In contrast, those who have lost work are facing a significant delay to their life plans. We propose a framework for how COVID-19 may directly and indirectly impact travel behaviour in the short- and long-term. The strongest impacts on mobility, through changes to life stage transitions, are indirect and unevenly spread across the population of young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-51
Number of pages9
JournalTransport Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Life stage
  • Life transitions
  • Millennials
  • Young adults

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