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Workers with Long Commutes More Likely to Have Health Problems


A recent Gallup Poll has found that American workers with long commutes are more likely to report both physical and emotional adverse effects, including obesity and high cholesterol.

Workers With Longer Commutes Report Lower Levels of Well-Being

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index was conducted between July 2009 and June 2010. Data was collected on 173,581 employed adults aged 18 and older via telephone interview. About one in five US workers spends more than half an hour getting to work, and 3% report a commute of more than an hour each way.

Overall, as commuting time increases, workers are more likely to report lower scores on the Well-Being Index. The effects were present regardless of full-time status (part time workers responded negative effects as well) and the findings were consistent among age ranges, education and income levels.

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Longer commute times are related to physical health conditions such as neck or back pain, high cholesterol and obesity. For example, one in three employees with a commute of more than 90 minutes a day reported recurrent neck or back pain in the past 12 months.

Obesity increases with commute time, likely due to the reduced opportunity to participate in regular physical activity and increased “on-the-go” eating, particularly of fast food. Twenty-four percent of those who commute only 0-10 minutes from home to work were considered obese (equal to a body mass index of 30 or greater). For those that travel an hour or more, the rate of obese respondents increased to 28%.

Psychologically, a longer commute time has negative effects as well. Among employees who take more than 90 minutes from home to work, 40% experience worry or anxiety. Workers with long commutes are also less likely to report feeling well-rested.

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For balancing work and well-being, Gallup encourages workers and employers to consider options that would decrease the adverse effects of long commutes, such as offering options for telecommuting or helping to defray commuting costs.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index collects and measures how work impacts life and health, and provides solutions for a healthier world.