Commute times are increasing.
Depending on the study, the average daily commute time for the Australian worker is between 50 & 60 minutes.
This means that throughout their lifetime the average Australian spends a total of 417 days (1.1 years!) commuting to and from work. That doesn’t include trips to school, university, the grocery store, the gym or any other travel. Just to and from work. And that is only the average, so just imagine how high that figure is for people who are well above it!
And, most importantly, this number is increasing, significantly. Our cities continue to swell and our roads continue to become more congested as more cars fill them.
Almost three quarters of all work commutes occur via the private automobile, with the remainder split between ride sharing, public and active transport.
So what is the cost of our work commutes over a lifetime?
Well, anywhere from $90,000 - $200,000 (and no, that does not include the cost of buying, registering or servicing cars/scooters/bikes… just petrol costs and/or public transport fares).
But what is the real cost??? (yes, we’re talking about things more important than money...)
How do our increasing commute times affect our job satisfaction? Our family life? Our overall happiness and quality of life?
Studies have been carried out. The results are clear. And it’s not great news.
Typically, people with the longest work commutes have the lowest overall satisfaction with life.
Commute lengths are linked to a sense of time pressure. People who spend the most time on the road to and from work experience higher levels of stress because they constantly feel hurried. Many of them spend much of their actual commute time worrying about all the activities they’re missing out on!
Traffic congestion tops the list for reasons why commuters experience so much increased stress. And the lack of physical leisure time is a close second. Commuters who are still able to make time for physical activity are, luckily, able to combat some of the negative effects of such long commutes.
*** DadBods Tip #7034 - Regular physical activity helps combat the negative effects of just about everything - so get out there and move ya lazy bugger :-) ***
People with rigid work hours and lower incomes are particularly susceptible to the decreased quality of life associated with long commutes. Parents and people in relationships also experience a greater negative impact due to the stress associated with time away from family.
Longer commutes are also associated with poor cardiovascular and metabolic health. The more time people spent in the car, the more likely they were to be overweight and have high blood pressure - mostly because they have less time to exercise...
Did we mention that exercise is good for you??
Lengthy commutes have also been linked to decreased energy and higher illness-related work absences. Unfortunately for those public transport advocates amongst us, results are virtually the same regardless of whether people drive private vehicles or use the public system to get to work.
Since there are only so many hours in a day, people with long commutes are often forced to give up a variety of social activities. People with longer commutes are less likely to spend time with friends, attend children’s school activities, and eat dinner with the family.
This decreased time with friends and family again contributes to higher rates of stress and decreased life satisfaction.
But don’t worry, not all is lost ...
Active transport is the clear winner here. Switching the car for the bicycle has a host of benefits. It frees you (in large part) from the stress of congestion, provides you with a great source of regular physical activity, saves you from petrol & registration costs, and is better for the environment! In a close second place is combining active transport (walking, running, skateboarding, scootering, cycling, unicycling… whatever tickles your pickle) with public transport. For a lot of us, because of the distance that needs to be travelled, this is a more realistic option.
Unfortunately, a lot of us, for so many reasons - ranging from family commitments to inadequate infrastructure to the sheer distance we have to cover from home to work - are simply left with no option but to endure long, inactive commutes. Of course, there is the other option to make the significant change of actually moving closer to your work, or seeking employment closer to where you live… but again, acknowledging the research that proves this will generally increase life satisfaction across the board, this isn’t necessarily feasible for many of us… at least not in the short term.
Luckily, there is evidence that suggests your longer commute does not have to be the end of the world. The key here is a change in mindset. Instead of viewing the time negatively, use the time as an opportunity to create a mental separation between home and work. If you can use your commute to help you leave work issues and stress behind, you are much more likely to be relaxed and ready for family time when you arrive home.
View your commute time as a break from other commitments and responsibilities. Engaging in pleasurable activities, such as listening to music/audiobooks/podcasts, enjoying the scenery, or simply being alone with your thoughts may help you view the commute as leisure time. For the parents amongst us, this might be the only peace and quiet you get all day …. so enjoy it!!
So, if you are someone who is stuck with a long commute, make sure your mindset gives you the best chance of combatting the otherwise certain adverse effects. And try not to let the time spent in your car affect the time spent with your loved ones!!