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Angst and The Rail Commuter: Longer The Trip, Greater The Stress

Armen Hareyan's picture

Stress and Commuting

Researchers know that the longer your drive to work, the more likely you are to feel frustrated and irritated and to experience physiological stress.

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The same is true for rail commuters, a Cornell researcher and his colleague have found. The longer the trip, the more physiological and psychological stress passengers experience, and the less able they are to complete a simple task at the end of the commute, regardless of gender.

In a recent issue of Health Psychology (Vol. 25:3), environmental psychologists Gary Evans of Cornell and Richard Wener of Polytechnic University report on their study of 208 commuters, taking trains from New Jersey to Manhattan. The researchers drew their conclusions after measuring commuters' saliva for the stress hormone cortisol, analyzing questionnaires filled out by the commuters and their spouses and asking each participant to proofread a document at the end of the commute.

"Commuting is a ubiquitous stressor for more than 100 million Americans who commute to work every weekday," said Evans, professor of design and environmental analysis. "Yet, little is known about how this aspect of work, which may indeed be the most stressful aspect of the job for some, affects human health and well-being. Commuting stress is an important and largely overlooked aspect of environmental health."