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Business Travel Is Bad for Your Health

Business Travel Is Bad for Your Health
Credit: potowizard/Shutterstock

Travel is often cited as a way to expand one's mind, eliminate stress, and add new experiences to your life.

Business travel? Not so much.

Such obligatory trips often are accompanied with late-night or early-morning flights, bad food, and insufficient sleep. It's the kind of trip that makes you long to be home.

A report from the Harvard Business Review found a "strong correlation" between how frequently one traveled for business and a number of physical and behavioral health risks.

In the report, Andrew Rundle, an associate professor of epidemiology in Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, discovered that those who spent 14 or more nights away from home per month, compared to those who spend one to six nights a month on business travel, had "significantly higher body mass index scores." They were also significantly more likely to report "poor self-rated health; clinical symptoms of anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence; no physical activity or exercise; smoking; and trouble sleeping."

Those findings were echoed in a new study from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In that research, those who traveled 21 or more nights for a six-month period had many of the same ailments: more likely to smoke, trouble sleeping, being sedentary, and scoring above the clinical threshold in topics like alcohol dependence and depression compared to those traveling one to six nights during the same period.

Simply cutting back on business travel would be the most straightforward solution. However, everyone's specific demands are different, and it just might not be an option.

So how to avoid being negatively impacted by the potential hazards of business travel? Rundle from Columbia noted in his article that companies should tackle this issue directly.

"We suggest a combination of employee education and improvements in employer policies around travel," he said.

For example, those who are about to head out on a trip can be shown what might be better food or restaurant alternatives at their travel venue. Hotels are infamous for late-night offerings that are packed with calories. If employees are nudged to seek out healthier alternatives and armed with information about what a better meal choice may look like, there's a chance they'll make that choice.

Additionally, stress management and mindfulness can be an important part of taking better care of yourself while away. Late nights, early mornings, and terrible eating habits while on the go can also take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Mobile applications like Headspace are a good place to start for dialing back some of the stress.

Better eating and sleeping habits, improved self-monitoring, and other proactive measures can make a major difference in how such trips make you feel. The long-term health impacts can add up if unhealthy habits creep in and follow you back. Both employers and employees can set a path for better health outcomes.

Derek Walter

Derek Walter is the founder of Walter Media, which offers writing and content strategy services. He is also the author of Learning MIT App Inventor: A Hands-On Guide to Building Your Own Android Apps.