When I used to commute 3 hours every day to work in my early 20s, I knew intuitively that it wasn't good for me. I felt the stress in my bones and even though I was surrounded by so many people, I was lonely, isolated inside my car.
When I finally got home at night I was too exhausted usually to cook a proper meal, talk to my partner, or truly enjoy myself at all before passing out and having to do it all again the next day. The weekends were often used for recovery and to do chores I missed during the week. All the hours I lost commuting really caught up with me and I couldn't seem to "do it all" AND be happy. However, I know I am only one of millions of people that have dealt with this problem.
In the last few years, studies have been pouring in that prove the negative effects long term commuting takes on even the most mentally and emotionally fit people. Sometimes the effects are immediate, when relationships end or jobs are quit, other effects however are more subtly pervasive, such as the negative repercussions this particular type of stress can place on our long term health.
Research shows that long commutes cause obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia. When it comes to long commutes, typcially those exceeding 45 minutes each way, there are some startling findings:
➤ Long commutes have been proven to make us significantly lonelier. (The New Yorker)
➤ Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40% likelier to divorce. (Umea University)
➤ Ninety-minute commutes are correlated with high cholesterol and BMI. (Gallup.com)
➤ Those with the longest commutes could actually be shaving years off their lives. (Umea University) "Commuting to an Early Grave"
➤ Long commutes are shown to reduce how much we sleep and exercise. (American Time Use Survey, 2009)
Each minute spent commuting translates into a 0.2205 minute sleep time reduction. If you commute an hour each way, you're losing 26.5 minutes of sleep each day and 2.2 hours a week.
➤ Long commutes raise our stress levels, so more bad cortisol. (Professor Gary W. Evans,Cornell University)
So the next time you hear a family member or friend say "My commute is killing me!" Maybe realize they're not exaggerators, just realists.
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