- Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada say long commute times are linked to an increased sense of time pressure
- This is because workers have less time for their hobbies and exercise
- Study found that the more time people spend commuting to and from work the less likely they are to be satisfied with life
By Sarah Griffiths
Being crammed in a train carriage with other grumpy and sweaty workers or sitting in endless traffic jams to get to work is no one’s idea of fun.
Now researchers saw that the more time people spend commuting to and from work the less likely they are to be satisfied with life.
Long journey times were also unsurprisingly linked to an increased sense of time pressure, with less time spent on hobbies, including exercise.
Margo Hilbrecht, a professor in Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: ‘We found that the longer it takes someone to get to work, the lower their satisfaction with life in general’.
Professor Hilbrecht, who is also associate director of research for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing says that bad traffic and delays are not always to blame.
The study, published in World Leisure Journal, analysed data from Statistics Canada to understand the links between commute time and well-being.
The researchers found that on top of being linked to lower life satisfaction, long commute lengths are related to an increased sense of time pressure.
‘Some people may enjoy a commute, but overall, longer travel time is linked to feelings of time crunch, which can increase stress levels,’ Professor Hilbrecht said.
Lengthy commutes have already been linked to poor mental and physical health, including hypertension, obesity, low-energy and illness-related work absences.
Beyond bad traffic, the researchers found one other factor to be highly correlated with commuters’ life satisfaction - physical activity.
‘We learned that commuters who had time for physical leisure had higher life satisfaction,’ she said.
‘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.’
Other factors linked to higher life satisfaction among commuters include flexible work hours and a higher household income.
According to the study, women reported higher levels of time pressure, as did those with a partner.
Professor Hilbrecht hopes that the new findings will help contribute to the development of programmes and policies to support better health for workers.
‘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,’ she said.
‘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.’