Longer the Commute, the Less Satisfied with Life

By Janice Wood
November 22nd, 2021
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.
Longer the Commute, the Less Satisfied with Life

A Canadian study has found that the more time you spend commuting to work, the less likely you are to be satisfied with life.

“We found that the longer it takes someone to get to work, the lower their satisfaction with life in general,” said Margo Hilbrecht, Ph.D., a professor in applied health sciences at the University of Waterloo and the associate director of research for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing.

For the study, which was published in World Leisure Journal, the researchers analyzed data from Statistics Canada. They found that besides being linked to lower life satisfaction, long commute lengths are related to an increased sense of time pressure.

“Some people may enjoy a commute, but overall, longer travel time is linked to feelings of time crunch, which can increase stress levels,” said Hilbrecht.

Lengthy commutes have already been linked to poor mental and physical health, including hypertension, obesity, low energy, and illness-related work absences.

Beyond bad traffic, the researchers found one other factor to be highly correlated with commuters’ life satisfaction: physical activity.

“We learned that commuters who had time for physical leisure had higher life satisfaction,” said Hilbrecht.

“Physical activity can mitigate commuting-related stress if workers can include it in their daily routines, but the obvious constraint is time scarcity. Longer commutes mean less time for other activities, which leads to lower life satisfaction.”

The researchers found that those commuters with flexible work hours and a higher household income reporter higher life satisfaction.

Hilbrecht said she hopes that the new findings will help contribute to the development of programs and policies to support better health.

“The message to employers is that encouraging flexible work hours or providing time for physical leisure can pay dividends in their employees’ satisfaction with life,” she said.

And the message to commuters?

“A long commute is detrimental to health,” she said. “Maybe it’s better to take a job that pays a little less money but is closer to home. If you have a choice, it’s worth looking at the impact of the commute on well-being.”

Source: University of Waterloo

Woman with a long work commute photo by shutterstock.

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.