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Long Work Commutes: The hidden costs, physical to financial

February 13, 2020

The familiar beep of your alarm abruptly awakens you before the sun appears. You drag yourself out of bed, get yourself ready for work, and start your morning commute. According to The Washington Post, if you are an “average American,” you drive approximately 26 minutes each way for work, occupying nearly an hour of your life per day. Sometimes it can be a lot more.  

Unpredictable traffic snarls, overcrowded and delayed trains, and roadside accidents, reminding you of the worst-case scenario.

Commuting to work is stressful, unhealthy, dangerous, and expensive in every way you can imagine.

Why do we do it?

People take jobs far away from home for a variety of reasons. Sometimes you can get transferred to a location further from home; sometimes, we take better jobs that cause us to travel further. Many people travel great distances so their children can stay in a good school. Everyone has their reason for commuting, but almost all commuters have some very serious things in common: the damages done to them in terms of mental and physical health and quality of life, in general.

A 2001 study by scientists at the Center for Psychotherapy Research in Stuttgart and the University Clinic of Ulm in Germany demonstrates how dramatic the effects can be. The researchers surveyed 407 commuters who completed questionnaires covering quality of life and mental well-being.

“The psychosomatic condition of these people was terrible,” according to Steffen Haefner, head of the project. Twice as many people with long commutes, compared to non-commuters, had issues with chronic pain, dizziness, exhaustion, and severe sleep deprivation.  Haefner further points out that “31 percent of the men and 37 percent of the women were, from a medical point of view, clearly in need of treatment.”  

Researchers from the School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas reported that commuting at least 20 miles a day, can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, higher blood sugar levels, and kidney disease.

University School of Medicine in Saint Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas, published a report in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that made correlations between people with commutes of only 10 miles each way, and a higher tendency toward depression, anxiety, and social isolation.  

All of those are only the physical and emotional costs, but to complete the picture, you must consider the financial burden of commuting. According to the 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, the greatest number of crashes per hour occur between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. -- otherwise known as rush hour. Driving during this time, as well as driving more, will cost you when seeking automobile insurance as well as health insurance. As the likelihood of an accident increases, your car insurance will increase with it, and as the damage from stress increases, so will your medical conditions, and therefore your medical insurance and care.

How can you avoid the damage caused by your daily commute? The biggest answer is obvious: shorten or eliminate your travel time to work. Secondary, partial solutions can include incorporating aspects of public transportation, ride-sharing, and meditation techniques.

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The views expressed are not necessarily the opinion of Social Advisors, and should not be construed directly or indirectly, as an offer to buy or sell any securities mentioned herein. Due to volatility within the markets mentioned, opinions are subject to change without notice.  Information is based on sources believed to be reliable; however, their accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed.