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Build Your Career Office Life

Commuting Has Adverse Effects on Workers' Health

commuting-11110202 Credit: Dreamstime.com

Taking the train or bus to work can take a serious toll on your health. A new study by Swedish researchers shows that workers who commute to work by train, car or bus have more adverse health effects than workers who rode their bikes or walked to work.

The study, published Oct. 30 in the BMC Public Health journal, examined 21,000 people between the ages of 18 and 65 who worked more than 30 hours a week and either drove to work or commuted to work by public transportation.  The findings showed that these commuters suffered increased incidences of negative perceived general health, which resulted in an increased number of absences from work due to illness.

"Generally car and public transport users suffered more everyday stress, poorer sleep quality, exhaustion, and felt that they struggled with their health compared to the active commuters," said Erik Hansson, one of the study's authors at Lund University in Sweden.

Additionally, the research found that workers who spent more time commuting experienced higher incidences of negative health effects than counterparts with shorter commutes.  However, those commuters who spent more than an hour driving to work bucked the trends found in this study.

"The negative health of public transport users increased with journey time," Hansson said. "However, the car drivers who commuted 30 to 60 minutes experienced worse health than those whose journey lasted more than one hour."

According to Hansson, this discrepancy comes from the fact that those commuters had an opportunity for more relaxation as they drove to work. While commuting to work is often associated with higher paying jobs and more job opportunities, Hansson believes workers and employers alike may soon need to start reconsidering these benefits to see if they outweigh the negatives found in this study.

"More research needs to be done to identify how exactly commuting is related to the ill health we observed in order to readdress the balance between economic needs, health and the costs of working days lost," Hansson said.