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Business Travel Is Bad for Your Health

Business Travel Is Bad for Your Health

People who travel extensively for business are at a higher risk for a variety of health problems, including obesity and high cholesterol.

That’s the finding of two researchers at Columbia University who found that the more often a person travels for work, the less healthy they are likely to be.

The research was conducted by comparing the health data of more than 13,000 employees from a corporate wellness program . Close to 80 percent of the employees traveled at least one night per month. Nearly 1 percent were extensive travelers -- spending as many as 20 nights a month on the road.

The researchers found that employees who did not travel at all were actually a less healthy group as compared to light travelers who travelled between one and six nights a month. Researchers think this may reflect the fact that those workers were already unhealthy and therefore, did not travel as much for work.

Otherwise, rates of “less-than-good” health increased along with nights of travel. Extensive travelers were 260 percent more likely to rate their health as either fair or poor, compared to light travelers.

Other health risk factors showed similar patterns: obesity was 33 percent more likely in nontravelers and 92 percent more likely for extensive travelers. The same two groups were also more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

Although business travel is often equated with long airline flights, relatively short business trips in personal cars are much more common. Several factors could contribute to health risks in frequent business travelers -- for example, poor sleep, fattening foods and long periods of inactivity, the researchers said.

The study's authors, Catherine Richards and Andrew Rundle of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, suggest some steps that companies can take to help employees stay healthy while they're on the road -- for example, offering stress management classes, selecting hotels with gym facilities and making healthier food choices using meal reimbursements.

The research appears in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).