This isn’t the freshest bit of news, but it’s still interesting: The Washington Postreports that killer commutes aren’t a misnomer.
[A] long commute can be harmful to your health. Researchers have found that hours spent behind the wheel raise blood pressure and cause workers to get sick and stay home more often. Commuters have lower thresholds for frustration at work, suffer more headaches and chest pains, and more often display negative moods at home in the evenings.
Sadly, that seems about right to me.
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Not being a medical researcher myself, though, I have no idea whether the research that the WaPo cites is definitive, or just the opening salvo in a long debate on the subject. That said, the methodology certainly seems sound; this is way more than idle conjuecture:
[UC Irvine professor Raymond] Novaco’s research team measures the blood pressure and heart rate of commuters shortly after they arrive at work and again two hours later. Commuters also fill out detailed questionnaires on their home and work lives. “The longer the commute, the more illness” and more illness-related work absences occur, he said.
I’d be interested to see how they controlled for socio-economic status. To the extent that sprawl forces longer commutes on people who can least afford them (the “drive ’til you qualify” phenomenon), there may be some conflation between economic stress and commuting stress—with attendant difficulty in discerning the effects of each.
And then there’s this: commuting as time bomb.
“If you’re driving an hour-and-a-half each way twice a day for 30 years, the consequences don’t catch up with you at 32, they catch up in your 50s ,” said Jerry L. Deffenbacher, a professor of psychology at Colorado State University, who uses a computerized driving simulator to test the connection between traffic congestion and anger.
And by the way—while we’re on the subject of commuting, don’t miss this excellent piece on long-distance commutes in the New Yorker.