By Tamika Seeto
Online production by Joseph Lam
It’s not just traffic jams and smelly train passengers that can start your morning off badly.
A new study has found longer work commutes can increase your risk of stress and depression.
The study by private health firm Vitality Health, in partnership with the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer, found workers with longer commutes are 33 per cent more likely to suffer from depression, 37 per cent more likely to have financial concerns and 12 per cent more likely to have work-related stress.
Queensland University of Technology Business and Psychology Associate Professor Cameron Newton says it’s no surprise long commutes are leaving people feeling drained.
“When people are commuting to and from work they’re exposed to a major, massive issues and triggers that could potentially be upsetting and be stressful, it makes sense then that by time people get to work they’re in recovery mode or they’re upset because of things that they’ve encountered on the road,” he says.
Professor Newton says commuters could use this time to think more positively.
“We don’t have to be ready to bite and ready to jump on every bad issue negatively about things that are happening to us on the commute. we can planfully problem solve getting ready for the day, we can put music on that’s nice and relaxing and has a calming effect.”
The study of 32 thousand adults also found shorter commute times can boost employee efficiency, with those who commute for less than 30 minutes gaining the equivalent of seven extra days of productivity per year.
Beyondblue spokesperson Dr Stephen Carbone said the report should be taken with a grain of salt.
“We have to be careful, it’s not the type of study you can look at a cause and an effect. It’s really just looking at the connection or the association between travel time and mental well-being.”
Dr Carbone says while commuting time is a factor in stress, there are a number of other factors at play.
“There’s a lot of factors that can contribute to the development of these conditions, in part a biological pre-kinetic disposition, but it’s also has got to do what’s happening in your life here and now,” said the doctor.
Professor Newton says flexible working options may be the key to reducing stress.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that more flexible arrangements to enable people to not travel in those peak times would have positive effects on the organisations, but it does depend on the type of work that the people do.”