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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Driving to Work Takes Mental Toll

Driving to Work Takes Mental Toll
Credit: Mueller/Shutterstock

Improved physical health isn’t the only benefit employees get from ditching their car for their daily commute to and from work, new research finds.

Walking or riding a bike to work each day is better for workers' mental health as well, according to a study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR). Specifically, active commuters are able to concentrate more and are under less strain than if they travel by car.

The mental health benefits come on top of previously documented physical health benefits of walking or cycling to work. A report from Business News Daily in 2013 revealed that people who walk to work are roughly 40 percent less likely to have diabetes and 17 percent less likely to have high blood pressure compared with those who drive to work.

Employees who aren't able to walk or bike each day can also boost their psychological health by taking public transportation, according to Adam Martin, a senior research associate at UEA's Norwich Medical School and the study's lead researcher. [Most (and Least) Stressful Jobs for 2014 ]

"You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress," Martin said in a statement. "But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialize, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up."

The study was based on 18 years of data on almost 18,000 18- to 65-year-old commuters in Britain. The data allowed the study's authors to look at multiple aspects of psychological health, including feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness, sleepless nights, and being unable to face problems. The researchers also accounted for numerous factors known to affect well-being, including income, having children, moving from a house or job and relationship changes.

For those who are driving to work, the longer the commute time, the worse off they are.

"Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological well-being," Martin said. "And correspondingly, people feel better when they have a longer walk to work."

The current research was published this month in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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