Did You Know Commuting to Work Reduces Your Lifespan?

| 5 min read
career risks

Thinking cheap rent – miles away from your workplace – is helping you save more? You might want to think again. Researchers say it is almost certainly not worth it.

Even if you don’t smoke, you are on a vegetable diet with lots of exercise to support; a daily round trip to and from work are actually blind paces to your grave. Studies show that how far or closer you are to work is a significant determinant of how long you’ll live.

Commuting is on an all time high as is the case with a larger percentage of today’s workforce; despite its supposed numerous benefits – better jobs, more fulfilling career prospects, increased salary etc, the downsides are however severe as research reports reveal that commuters are likely to die faster than non-commuters.

A study by researchers at Washington University revealed that people who live more than 16km from their work are more likely to have high blood pressure than people with shorter commutes. From the research, those who commute more than 24km to work were less likely to meet recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity, and had a higher likelihood of obesity. Commuting distances greater than 16km were associated with high blood pressure. So a fine young man who lives in a well-furnished apartment at Ojota but works on the Island in Lagos falls in this category.
The researchers posited that other effects of long commutes include neck pain, loneliness,  stress, and insomnia (lack of sleep); and deplorably, divorce.

As in the case of divorce, most couples break under the strain caused from accumulated stress while finding a balance in both worlds – raising children/managing relationships and meeting work expectations. There are also series of research to buttress the point that sleep deprived people are more likely to cheat on their partners and display unethical work behaviour.

In a typical urban, highly commercialised centre like Lagos, an average of 6 in 10 individuals commute to work daily; with about 70% of these commuters hopping in and out of commercial buses, juggling mental activities like inhaling dangerous substances from combustion pipes and immediate environment; and probably engrossed in a mind battle as they anticipate a long day ahead.

“I think the traffic piece is important,” Chris Hoehner, lead author of the research says. “Even with longer commutes, if you don’t have the traffic, you have the day-to-day unpredictability and stress it causes.” In other words, the mere thought that you’d drive through traffic for the next couple hours or the feeling that you have to check updates on @Gidi_Traffic to confirm traffic reports before you hit the road automatically increases your stress level.

Hoehner says it’s likely that people who have long commutes have less time for exercise, sleep, and cooking, which can all lead to increased body-mass indexes and body fat content. “That could be one of the mechanisms for these elevated numbers—they might not have the discretionary time to fit in exercise and cook healthy meals,” she says. “People who have longer commutes would have to make an extra effort to find time for physical activity.”

Another Study revealed that greater commuting distances are associated with decreased cardiorespiratory fitness, increased weight/obesity, and other indicators of metabolic risk. But also increased stress, long travel times, increased anxiety, increased lateness, absenteeism and has adverse effects on turnover at work and cognitive performance (Koslowsky et. al 1995.); to put it mildly, commuting takes you away from so many things that make you happy and drags you closer to death.

Another research by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and Princeton economist Alan Krueger noted that commuting, especially in the mornings, is an unpleasant task. This causes a spillover into how we approach daily activities at work and also affects relationships negatively due to lowered frustration tolerance. Another survey conducted also showed that 40 percent of employees who spend more than 90 minutes getting home from work experienced worry for much of the previous day.  This is stating the obvious, even though many people are too focused on the benefits they pursue to bother about the adverse effects this daily ritual has on their health and general well-being. A. Stuzer and B. S. Frey termed this the commuting paradox: Stress that doesn’t pay.

Most workers who commute expend more energy on the road than at work. A mundane task it certainly is, and in most cases, a necessary evil. Regardless of the motives – better prospects, more opportunities, preferred housing; commuting takes a toll on your life as reports from a study by Costa et al. (1988) showed increased psychological and physical health problems among commuters, especially among those using public transportation.

What you should do;

– The famous and reputable weight loss program Weight Watchers recommends that you exercise your way to work. You can walk, rollerblade, or ride your bike. This is what Nancy did. As a busy professional who commutes to work one hour and a half each day, it is difficult for her to find time to exercise. But after joining Weight Watchers she started walking 35 minutes each day, from the bus terminal to her office. She lost 17 lbs. If you want to learn more about Weight Watchers, and even get a promotion code, see this review here.
– Researchers suggest you commute with a friend, “sharing your trip with someone  reduces stress by half” they say.
– Speak to your employer about working flexible hours instead of being another 9-to-5-er on the road.
– Rising earlier and leaving earlier can also help you avoid some of the maddening rush hours.
– Be prepared. Make your commute less stressful by planning ahead from the night before, better still, over the weekend.

How do you manage commuting to work?

Lola Olakeye


  1. Wow! What a piece. I really fall under this category of workers who commute long distances to work everyday. I live in Igbogbo in Ikorodu, work in Magodo. I drive out as early as 5am and get home around 10pm everyday because of the bad roads now under construction. I battle with stress on a daily basis, but thanks to some good drugs that keeps me going. Tho attimes its like the drugs don’t work. I pray the road gets fixed quickly because I don’t wanna die before my time.

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