It's no secret that commuting can be stressful. Whether you're stuck in traffic or on a crowded bus or train, daily commute can be a hassle. But did you know that it can also have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing? Whether you're one of the thousands of public transport commuters or drive to work or school in your own private vehicle, your commute time has a significant impact on your mental and physical health.
The Health Risks Associated With Commuting
There are a number of health risks associated with commuting, including stress, anxiety and lack of life satisfaction. Commuting can also take away time that could be spent relaxing or doing things you enjoy. According to a recent study, commuters who take the bus or train as their primary mode of transportation have poor self-reported health, with the majority reporting higher anxiety levels than those who drive their own car.
Travelling for more than one hour every day has been found to be more detrimental than travelling on shorter journeys for only a few minutes. Most commuters complain about headaches, backaches, fatigue, high blood pressure and respiratory problems resulting from the stress of squeezing into packed public transportation, the effects of air pollution, and having little time for physical activity or other exciting daily activities. Those who have no choice but to endure the heavy traffic in a crowded, noisy public transportation have their mental health compromised to varying degrees, in contrast to those who have access to their own personal mode of transport, such as their own car.
Additionally, public transport commuters report less satisfaction with leisure time after work because they have to brave the streets again to get home.
However, according to another study, daily commutes jeopardise more than just the personal wellbeing of public transport commuters. Even those who use other modes of travel, including urban bikes, scooters, electric bikes or private cars, have lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety. Many of them consider their daily activities to be less significant than those people who do not have to commute to work every day.
Many people believe that driving a private vehicle can be detrimental to your mental health because of the significant amount of time you spend stuck in traffic, surrounded by a sea of vehicles, with nothing to do but listen to the radio.
How Daily Commutes Reduce Satisfaction With Leisure Time
People who utilise public transit systems day in and day out think that the luckiest of the lot are those who are able to work from home and thus are spared the physical and psychological health impacts of commuting. They would give anything, including their large salary, to switch places! Research shows that a higher salary or free housing cannot compensate commuters for the ill effects of travelling long hours every day just to get to work. However, another group of survey respondents said that their daily sacrifices translate to the happiness of their family members, so they continue to suffer and bring home the bacon.
Another factor that influences a person's level of dissatisfaction and anxiety about their daily commute is their marital status. Approximately 60% of unmarried men and women say they have little to no time to engage in physical activity to improve their personal wellbeing, meet up with friends, or find leisure time satisfaction. Married people, on the other hand, complain about limited leisure time availability, which forces them to spend time with their spouses and children only on weekends.
Tips for Making Your Commute Less Stressful
If you commute regularly, it's important to take steps to stay healthy and productive while you're on the go. Here are a few tips:
- If you drive your own private vehicle, plan your route in advance so you know what to expect. This will help reduce anxiety about the unknown.
- Try to leave for work or school early enough to avoid rush hour traffic.
- Before leaving for work or school, get up early and take a walk around the neighbourhood or do some breathing exercises. Meditation promotes personal wellbeing by encouraging a positive outlook, thus a key component to improving your health status.
- Plan ahead. If you know you're going to be stressed out during your commute, try to plan ahead and pack everything you'll need for the day, such as a good book, a healthy snack, or the latest episodes of your favourite podcast saved on your mobile device. This can help to alleviate anxiety.
- Use your commute as an opportunity to plan your day or week so you can hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination.
- Get enough sleep. Being well-rested will help you cope with the stresses of commuting and make it easier to concentrate when you're working.
- Eat nutritious food before leaving the house to maintain your energy levels and keep your mind sharp.
Commuting can have a number of negative effects on your health and wellbeing; however, following these tips can help mitigate those effects. Traffic jams and delays are unavoidable, so try to remain calm, relaxed and patient – it's all part of the journey!