The report found that the longer the commute, the lower the health satisfaction and the lower the health status. The correlation was stronger for women and those that drive, as opposed to using public transportation.
Women report lower health satisfaction, a lower probability of regular exercise, a higher BMI, call in sick more often and visit the general practitioner; the longer the commute. Men only report a lower health status and visit the general practitioner more often, when the commute is longer.
In contrast to most of the earlier research, this paper analysed four types of health outcomes: subjective health, objective health, health behaviour, and health care utilisation.
- Almost 80% of commuters use public transportation or a car to go to work.
- The results show that people who spend more time commuting report lower health satisfaction and a lower current health status.
- Whereas commuting time does not negatively affect objective health measures, people who spend more time commuting do visit the general practitioner more often.
- For car drivers, a longer commuting time is related to lower health satisfaction, lower health status, a higher BMI and more visits to the general practitioner.
The author of the report, Dr. Annemarie Kuenn-Nelen from the Maastricht University comments: “We observe that commuting plays a big role in everyday life of a lot of people. It is important to know whether and how commuting affects health as health not only determines productivity but also happiness.
“I find that whereas objective health and health behaviour measures are barely affected by commuting time, subjective health is clearly lower for people who commute longer. I find that longer commuting times are related to lower health satisfaction and lower health status.”
How to decrease commute times?
“The introduction of a direct connection is one way of decreasing commuting times and thereby reducing the negative health effects of commuting. It is important to investigate other ways to reduce commuting time, such as commuting outside of rush hours and even working from home, to hamper the negative health effects of commuting,” concludes Dr. Kuenn-Nelen.