The Impact of Our Commutes to Work
Posted on November 3, 2011 by Gail Danneman
While most of us wish our commute to work was ten minutes or less, the truth of the matter is that is unrealistic. Depending on the city in which you live, you may experience a longer or shorter commute. The average commute for Americans is about thirty minutes or an hour total in a day. With a commute of about an hour every day, there are observed consequences. Our health, mentally and physically is negatively affected by the amount of time most of us are driving to work. There is also the impact on family life that research has not examined as in depth.
A couple of summers ago I interned at a company about forty-five minutes from my apartment given there were no accidents or heavy traffic. I had to be at work at 7:45 a.m., which meant I had to leave my apartment at about 6:50 a.m. in case there was bad traffic on the way. As a female, it takes a bit of time to get ready in the morning and sneak in breakfast, so I was getting up very early. As I mentioned in my night owl post, I am not a morning person. These very early mornings were extremely difficult mainly because I was not used to them. After a few weeks, I found my body worn down. I was only getting five hours of sleep a night and when I got home from work all I wanted to do was nap.
I noticed my motivation for my usual exercise regimen diminished greatly. After driving up to an hour sometimes to get home from work, the only thing that sounded appealing was sitting down and relaxing. I learned a lot about what I don’t want in the future and a very long commute is something I know I will try to avoid if at all possible. I do think that everyone responds to commuting differently. I have a lot of friends that enjoy driving and commuting does not really bother them. For me, it is the heavy traffic and stop and go that does not go over well.
Mental health can also be affected by commuting to work each day. When employees do not get enough sleep, he or she may be more susceptible to stress. Women more than men experience more depression based on travel distance to work. Much of the time we spend in our cars on the way to work can induce anxiety because of the awareness that we are on our way to work. Many people feel very tense in high traffic areas because of the fear of not making it to work on time. Commuting to work does not allow us to be in control. Unfortunately, accidents and bad road conditions occur without our control that slows us down. To go from a high stress car ride to stress at work once we arrive spells a mental health disaster.
The reality is that our commutes to work are often not by choice. We either really like our job or perhaps are not in a position to obtain a different job due to the current economy. For some, the commute is not bothersome as a job to drive to is better than no job at all. However, many employees do experience negative side effects that can be traced to how they arrived to work and how long it took.
While environmental advertisements encourage us all to think about how we are getting places, unfortunately, riding a bike or walking to work is not always an option. For those that work forty-five minutes by car, riding a bike would only add an additional amount of time. Depending on how close one lives to his or her workplace, this option is not always the best option.
Does your commute to work impact your health or family life?