Unsatisfactory Commuting
A new study has found that long commuting hours to and from work can be linked to a lower life satisfaction and it goes beyond just bad traffic.

December 4, 2014

Long commutes to work and back home can be the worse time of the day for most people. A new Waterloo study has found that commuting, the more time you spend getting to and from work is linked to people being less satisfied with life.

“We found that the longer it takes someone to get to work, the lower their satisfaction with life in general,” says Margo Hilbrecht, a professor in Applied Health Sciences.

The study that has been published in the World Leisure Journal has found that commuting kills contentment and traffic is not the only reason to blame. It has long been thought that commuting comes with many upsides like providing a time to unwind and transition from the workday for example but the study finds that the opposite is true for most people.

By analyzing data from Statistics Canada they found that the top factor for lower life satisfaction is linked to long commute lengths that are related to an increased sense of time pressure.

These long commutes have been linked to poorer mental and physical health that includes hypertension, obesity, low-energy and illness-related work absences. Another highly correlated factor – physical activity – besides bad traffic is linked to commuters’ life satisfaction.

“Some people may enjoy a commute, but overall, longer travel time is linked to feelings of time crunch, which can increase stress levels,” says Hilbrecht. “We learned that commuters who had time for physical leisure had higher life satisfaction. Physical activity can mitigate commuting-related stress if workers can include it in their daily routines, but the obvious constraint is time scarcity. Longer commutes mean less time for other activities, which leads to lower life satisfaction.”

On the other hand of the spectrum factors such as flexible work hours and a higher household incomes are linked to higher life satisfaction of commuters.

“The message to employers is that encouraging flexible work hours or providing time for physical leisure can pay dividends in their employees’ satisfaction with life,” says Hilbrecht. “A long commute is detrimental to health. Maybe it’s better to take a job that pays a little less money but is closer to home. If you have a choice, it’s worth looking at the impact of the commute on well-being.”