Health | Did You Know

Your Commute Might Be Slowly Killing You

WalesOnline

Unless you have an office at home, it's inevitable you'll spend time commuting to work.

Whether you drive, walk, bus, or bike to your place of your employment, it takes time to get from location A to B. But, the length of time spent on your daily travels can impact your health.

A study of 34,000 workers across all UK industries was conducted by VitalityHealth, the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer, which examined how an individual's commute time to work affected their health and productivity.

"Time scarcity is a significant cause of stress and unhealthy behavior."

According to the research, those who spent under half an hour commuting to work achieved an extra seven days' worth of productive time each year compared to their coworkers who traveled for an hour or over.

But while those with a shorter commute time reaped the benefits of minimal travel time, those who spent more time on transportation were more likely to have poorer health.

These individuals were found to be "33% more likely to suffer from depression, 37% more likely to have financial worries and 12% more likely to report multiple aspects of work-related stress."

They were also reported to have less than seven hours a sleep at night, and 21% more likely to be obese.

"Time scarcity is a significant cause of stress and unhealthy behavior across UK employees," Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer explained.

"A number of factors combine to create this time scarcity, but career responsibilities and increased commuting times at peak hours due to a lack of availability of affordable housing close to workplaces, are key issues," he said.

"Employers' can positively impact their employees' lives by looking at working policies and financial wellness programs to support those that are juggling multiple commitments," Bailey added.

The study also suggested that employees who work from home or have flexible working hours were less likely to be stress and had an extra productive days a year, compared to individuals who aren't given the same accommodations.

"Commuting is a highly stressful experience."

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) revealed similar results after publishing a report based on data from the Office for National Statistics and conducting their own additional poll based on 1,500 regular commuters in the UK.

"There is a noticeable decline in health and well being if you have a longer commute," said Emma Lloyd, policy and research manager at the RSPH, who wrote the report. "Commuting is a highly stressful experience."

According to Lloyd, travelers with longer commute times are more inclined to have poorer health based on factors such as reduced physical activity and increased snacking while in transit.  

The results showed that the average commuter adds about 800 extra calories a week to their diet as a result of their lengthy travel times.

Out of those surveyed, 55% reported increased stress levels, 44% reported reduced time with their family and friends, and 36% reported reduce sleep time.

"Commuting is something many of us have to do every day."

According to Lloyd, there are several initiatives available to lessen the negative side-effects of a long commute.  

Like Bailey, she suggests businesses should offer their employees more flexible working hours to reduce the congestion during peak traffic hours. She also recommends a reduction in the availability of unhealthy and fast food along transport routes, and have more available space for passengers to sit down.

David Ogilvie, program leader at the UKCRC Center for Diet and Activity Research at the MRC epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge says that while he recommends people try to opt for a more active transportation method, such as walking or biking to work, he acknowledges it's not always feasible based on the commuter's location.

"For a lot of people that may be unrealistic, but they may benefit from the incidental activity," Ogilvie said, adding that using any other modes of transportation (including busing) instead of a car has the ability to reduce your BMI.

"Most people using public transport will have some physical activity on either side of the transport," Olgilvie said.

"Commuting is something many of us have to do every day," he added. "The more we can do to make that health promoting, the better."

How long is your commute to work? Let us know in the comments!

[H/T: City AM, CNN]

Maya has been working at Shared for a year. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com