A recent Slate article takes yet another look at the health toll - both physical and psychological - of the long commute.
Depression, stress, obesity, chronic pain, insomnia: they all correlate positively with commuting time. Obesity in particular correlates more strongly with long commutes than any other single factor. Longer commutes even correlate with higher divorce rates for couples: 40% higher in commutes of 45 minutes or longer.
If you are commuting, you are not spending quality time with your loved ones. You are not exercising, doing challenging work, having sex, petting your dog, or playing with your kids (or your Wii). You are not doing any of the things that make human beings happy.
The evidence also strongly suggests that it is the length of the commute itself that correlates with the negative effects, not the overall length of the workday:
Take a worker with a negligible commute and a 12-hour workday and a worker with an hourlong commute and a 10-hour workday. The former will have healthier habits than the latter, even though total time spent on the relatively stressful, unpleasant tasks is equal.
The essay closes by addressing the well-known weighting mistake that leads people to over-estimate the happiness they will get from a more distant suburban house while simultaneously under-estimating the misery they will get from a long commute:
Isn't the big house and the time to listen to the whole Dylan catalog worth something as well? Sure, researchers say, but not enough when it comes to the elusive metric of happiness. Given the choice between that cramped apartment and the big house, we focus on the tangible gains offered by the latter. We can see that extra bedroom. We want that extra bathtub. But we do not often use them. And we forget that additional time in the car is a constant, persistent, daily burden—if a relatively invisible one.
Do not take it lightly. People who say, "My commute is killing me!" are not exaggerators. They are realists.
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