How commuting to work can affect our mental health

 It turns out being stuck in traffic is not only frustrating but also detrimental to our mental health. The daily commute, especially when it involves long hours in traffic, leaves little time for physical activity, leading to both weight gain and poor sleep patterns.

While prior research on the health impacts of commuting has been scarce in Asian populations, a new study has shed light on the subject.

The study discovered that sitting in traffic can raise blood pressure not due to frustration, but because of the air pollution drivers inhale. South Korea, known for its long average commuting times and high rates of depression among OECD nations, provides a compelling example of the health effects of lengthy commutes.

mental health

The study included over 23000 participants, and it found that South Koreans with commutes lasting more than an hour are 16% more likely to experience depressive symptoms compared to those with commutes under 30 minutes.

The researchers, led by Dong-Wook Lee from Inha University, analyzed data from the Fifth Korean Working Condition Survey conducted in 2017. Participants answered questions based on the World Health Organization well-being index, with mental health scores used to evaluate depressive symptoms.

On average, respondents had a daily commute time of 47 minutes, equating to nearly four hours of commuting per week for five workdays. Approximately 25% of participants reported experiencing depressive symptoms based on their index scores, though this does not equate to a formal diagnosis.

mental health

The study revealed that the link between long commutes and poorer mental health was more pronounced among unmarried men who worked over 52 hours per week and had no children. Among women, long commutes were most significantly associated with depressive symptoms among low-income workers, shift workers, and those with children.

The researchers suggest that people with long commutes may have less time to relax and relieve stress through activities such as sleep or hobbies. However, the study did not account for certain risk factors for depressive symptoms, like family history, and the types of transportation used were not specified.

However, previous research suggests that switching to active transport modes like cycling or walking can improve commuters’ mental health. It is also important to realize that some individuals view their long commute as valuable downtime or an opportunity to disconnect from work.

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