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The Stresses of Commuting

You are less likely to be satisfied with life the more time you spend commuting to and from work. This is the conclusion drawn from a new study that has been published in World Leisure Journal.

The study goes on to explore why commuting affects stress levels and has a generally negative effect on contentment. While it has long been considered that there are positive aspects to commuting, such as having designated time to relax and providing a welcome transition to and from work life, the study has discovered that the opposite of these ideas is in fact true for the majority of people.

Previous studies have already linked poor mental and physical health to long commutes, citing maladies including hypertension, low energy, obesity and illness-related work absences. When researchers analyzed data from Statistics Canada in order to further explore the links between length of commute and commuters’ well-being, they found that in addition to being linked to lower life satisfaction, longer commutes correlate with an increased sense of time pressure, which in turn can lead to heightened levels of stress.

While bad traffic conditions were linked to lower life satisfaction, researchers also discovered that lack of physical activity was a significant piece of the puzzle. Physical activity has the ability to mitigate commute-related stress, but of course this is dependent upon workers’ ability to incorporate exercise or other physical activity into their daily routines. Time scarcity, which is reported by those who make regular, long commutes, makes this challenging. Lengthier commutes to and from work mean less time for physical activities.

The study also found that women reported higher levels of time pressure than men, as did those with a partner.

One message to take away from this is that workers ought to consider work closer to home when seeking employment. Not only this, but it may well be worth considering commuting time above other factors that are common in decision-making regarding new jobs, such as salary, working conditions and holidays.

It will come as no surprise to many that flexible work hours and higher household incomes were linked to higher life satisfaction. Any company that aims to improve the well-being, motivation and productivity of its workforce would be well-advised to seriously consider the powerful effect of offering flexible work hours and/or providing physical leisure time for its employees.