Cars, commuting, and dissatisfaction with life (RCI Radio Canada International)

Monday, December 8, 2014

traffic jam

Rush hour congestion heading toward the Champlain bridge in Montreal. A new study shows the longer the commute behind the wheel, the less satisfied people are with their lives.                                                           Photo Credit: via Radio-Canada

By Marc Montgomery

It seems some people actually don’t mind the commute to work behind the wheel.  Most people however do not enjoy it and a new study has found a direct connection between commuting and satisfaction with life. Indeed, the longer the commute, the less-satisfied people are with life.

Margo Hilbrecht (PhD) is the lead author of the report.  She is a research professor in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and Associate-Director of Research for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing.

Listen (8:05 mins)

For the purposes of the study, the type of commuting was limited only to those who drive to work, which is about 82% of working Canadians. It was published in the World Leisure Journal.

It shows that people who spend more time commuting feel pressured for time and the longer the commute time, the lower the satisfaction with life in general.

The study noted that people who engaged in physical activity had a higher level of life satisfaction but that being stuck in traffic to and from work daily, sometimes for hours, left little time to get involved in sports or physical activity.

Lengthy commutes have already been linked to poor mental and physical health, including hypertension, obesity, low-energy and illness-related work absences.

Professor Hilbrecht notes long drives to and from work affect people in other ways including the social aspect of having less time to spend with families, less time to be involved in the community,  and the health aspect of breathing in exhaust fumes in addition to the sedentary sitting for hours on end.

traffic jam in snowstorm

Canadian winters add another dimension of stress to the commute in addition to increased travel time, People arrive at work tense, and arrive home after work later, and are stressed and over-tired © CBC

Flexible work hours to reduce commute time, stress

A couple of suggestions to come from the study include a greater investment in public transit in urban areas, and for employers to enable flexible work hours so that their employees who commute can do so outside the peak rush hours and so avoid the typical delays and stress of congested traffic and jams.

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