Summary: Suffering long commutes may also be negatively impacting mental health new research discovers.


Care to feel less stressed at work and improve concentration levels at the same time? Ditch the car commute; walk, cycle or take mass transit says a new study out of the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School.


It appears that those long hours spent in traffic during daily work commutes are doing more harm than a slight bump in blood pressure caused by other’s poor driving etiquette, it’s actually affecting our mental and physical health.


The UEA studay analyzed 18 years of data on approximately 18,000 subjects in Britain aged 18-65 years old. They were able to tabulate data on sleep, happiness, coping skills, and feelings of control/worthlessness. The study was also able to control for the various factors that often impact wellbeing such as family size, relationship challenges, income, commuting time and job/residence changes.


Don’t Drive- Be Happy!


What they uncovered was significant, especially for those who spend long hours in cars during daily commutes. The study found a significant correlation between declines in psychological wellbeing and commuting times in singular vehicles. The longer individuals spent commuting by car the worse their levels of psychological wellbeing. Conversely individuals walking or cycling to work scored much higher on psychological wellbeing analysis. Mass transit scored as a better option than singular commutes presumably due to social interactions, movement and relaxation opportunities not available to regular commuting.



Walking or cycling to work has also been shown to have many positive health benefits in previous studies as well. The Imperial College London and the Public Health Foundation of India found that individuals that walked or cycled to work had lower rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. In the case of diabetes the rate was 40% less for those walking/cycling to work.


What about walking at work? Are the findings similar? Actually, yes. The consistent factor in these studies is the effect of compiled sedentary time over the course of the day. Walking and cycling to work is a great way to orient the brain and body in a more healthy direction for the day however for many in America the opportunity to walk or cycle to work is non-existent. Mass transit appears to be a better option but again for many this is not an option either. We have also learned that the positive effects of morning exercise can be rapidly undone if the rest of the day is spent sitting in a chair.


The message is clear that motion and social interaction need to be introduced into daily activities as much as possible for optimal mental and physical well being. Walking at work with a treadmill desk is one option for those who have no other opportunity for movement throughout the day however, these studies show that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to impact the health of our nation on a major scale.

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