Longer Commutes Could be Bad for Your Health AND Your Diet

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

According to a new report from the Royal Society of Public Health, the majority of commuters in England and Wales take at least one hour to travel to work. The two UK countries face some of the longest commutes worldwide.

In 2013, the average commuting time across England and Wales was 56 minutes, with most people either driving or catching a bus or train to work. What’s important is that spending these extended periods of time travelling can cause harm to your health and wellbeing.

The report suggested that average commuters in Britain felt that they consumed nearly 800 extra calories each week because of the long commutes and what they eat during their journey.

Study author Emma Lloyd, the Royal Society of Public Health’s policy and research manager, said that there’s a noticeable decline in wellbeing and health in people who have longer commutes. She said that commuting causes a lot of stress and that poor health is fuelled further by reduced physical exercise, which leads to an increase in blood pressure and BMI, as well as less time to prepare healthy meals, spend time socialising and get enough sleep.

Commute times were based on information provided by the Office for National Statistics, alongside another poll of 1,500 commuters. The poll found a few reasons as to why commuters are seeing a decline in their health. More than 50 percent of people experience more stress as a result of their journey to work, while 44 percent said they missed out on spending time with loved ones. Around 41 percent said they didn’t do as much physical exercise as a result of their commute and approximately one third said they sleep less, snack more and consume more junk food.

People in London had the longest commute, with an average of 79 minutes to get to work. This put them ahead of all the cities in America, including Chicago, New York and LA.

Warnings from the Royal Society of Public Health suggest that issues such as convenience and cost seem to be the priority when it comes to commuting, but aspects of public health have been neglected. Lloyd said it’s important to remember the health and wellbeing point of view.

The researchers said that now is the time for change. Lloyd pointed out that the public are frustrated and don’t want to feel stressed as a result of their commute. Their report included a number of recommendations to help make the situation better and create a happier and healthier commuting culture in England and Wales.

Recommendations include employers allowing their staff to work flexibly rather than sticking to the rigid 9-5 working day, removing the stress of crowded peak time travel. Nearly 3 in 5 of those polled said that flexible working hours would improve their health and wellbeing.

Other recommendations include more seating on services and reducing the availability of unhealthy foods along transport routes.