Commute To Work? How It Takes A Toll On Health

Oct 31, 2011 | Updated Dec 31, 2011

If your daily commute involves your car, the subway or a bus, a new study suggests the trip may be linked with extra stress, exhaustion, poor sleep and possibly even an increase in missed work days.

Those who travel by bus, train or car are more likely to have health complaints than people who walk or ride a bicycle to work, the researchers reported in the BMC Public Health study.

The study involved commute and health data from 21,000 people ages 18 to 65 who live in Sweden. Everyone in the study worked full-time.

ABC News reported that a longer commute was also tied with more reports of health problems by people who take a bus or train to work.

However, it's important to note that the findings of the study are only associations with commuting -- other factors may be causing the increase in health complaints among car and public-transportation users, the Telegraph reported.

The Telegraph explained:

They tried to account for the fact that people who commuted in different ways were likely to be drawn from different backgrounds, but the academics conceded this could be a factor in health differences.

In the United States, the average daily work commute is 25.1 minutes, according to 2009 government census data. Just over 86 percent of Americans drive a car, truck or van to work, while 5 percent of Americans reported that they take public transportation. A little over 13 percent of Americans have a less-than-10-minute commute, while 15 percent of Americans have a 15 to 19-minute commute, and 7.1 percent have a 45 to 59-minute commute.

Recently, a study appeared in the Journal Of Health Economics suggesting that women's mental health is affected by the daily work commute more than men's. In that study, researchers found that women's commutes were generally shorter than men's, but that women's psychological health was more affected by the commute than men's, WebMD reported.

In addition, research has indicated that traffic pollution could be taking a toll on your health, with high traffic pollution being linked to an increase in heart attack risk for six hours following exposure, according to the British Medical Journal study.