Women are more stressed by commuting to and from work than men, even though men spend more time each day on their daily commute, researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield reported in the Journal of Health Economics. The authors said that while men are generally unaffected by commuting, it appears to have a negative effect on females’ mental health.

The authors explained that commuting takes up a considerable amount of time for the majority of working people. They had set out to determine what effects commuting time might have on the psychological health of adult males and females.

The investigators believe women are more sensitive to how long they spend travelling to and from work because they spend more time on housework, childcare and other household tasks.

Professor of Economics, Jennifer Roberts, at the University of Sheffield said:

“We know that women, especially those with children, are more likely to add daily errands to their commute such as food shopping and dropping-off and picking-up children from childcare. These time-constraints and the reduced flexibility that comes with them make commuting stressful in a way that it wouldn’t be otherwise.”

The mental toll is greater on mothers with pre-school age children, the authors wrote. The psychological effect on them was found to be four times greater than for men with children of the same age.

The study found that even childless females in long-term relationships were also more affected than men.

Only single females with no children, those who could work flexible hours, and women whose partners were responsible for the bulk of childcare were unaffected by the daily commute.

When comparing men with other men, only those with pre-school age children suffered psychologically. Even so, in such cases they appeared to suffer less than childless women in relationships.

Professor of Social Policy, Paul Dolan, London School of Economics, said:

“Of course men also experience competing demands on their time, and so it may simply be that they are less affected by the psychological costs of commuting.”

For this study, the investigators gathered data from the British Household Panel Survey – a yearly questionnaire of a nationally representative sample of UK households. The data includes details on health, well-being, economic and social factors, and employment.

12 questions in the survey relate to mental health, e.g. has the participant suffered insomnia because of worry, felt continuously under strain, regarded themselves as worthless, etc.

According to the RAC (Royal Automobile Club), UK, commuters travel an average of 54 minutes each day in the UK. Some, however, may travel over two hours. This consumes their leisure time and can affect their health. Traffic jams and cramped conditions on trains can leave travelers frustrated and stressed. Heart Research UK has some useful tips that can help you maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible:

  • Talk to your employer about flexible hours.
  • If flexible hours are not possible, try leaving home a bit earlier and go to a gym near your place of work, or stay on longer after work and go for a run or walk near the office. The aim is to avoid the rush hour and to get some exercise.
  • If you arrive home late, avoid caffeine and alcohol, eat a light and healthy meal rich in fruit and vegetables. This will help you sleep better.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.
  • If you drive to work, keep healthy snacks in your car, such as dried fruit, unsalted nuts, and a bottle of water. This will also help prevent impulse buys if you have to stop at the gas (petrol) station.
  • Try organizing a car pool with colleagues or friends so that the fuel costs and driving can be shared. Having company in the car will probably make those traffic jam moments less stressful.

Written by Christian Nordqvist