If you’re reading this during your daily struggle in to work, you may want to turn the page now.
Officials have carried out an in-depth study of commuter misery and found that it is most profound in those whose travel time is between 61 and 90 minutes.
Almost every measure of personal well-being decreases with each successive minute of travel, the report reveals – except for levels of anxiety, which increase with each minute.
It’s worse if you go by train rather than drive in your car, it adds, and even those who walk or cycle experience similar effects, suggesting they are not the stress-relieving activities you might expect.
Researchers found that commuters had small but statistically significant lower scores on all measures of well-being.
‘The effects of commuting on personal well-being were greatest for anxiety and happiness, suggesting that commuting affects day to day emotions more than overall evaluations of satisfaction with life or the sense that daily activities are worthwhile,’ the report states.
For example, on a scale of 0 to 10, non-commuters rated their life satisfaction 0.14 points higher than those who travel to work. They also rated their happiness 0.19 points higher than commuters.
When analysing the results with the length of time travelled, researchers found that each of the personal well-being measures decreased with each successive minute of travel, except for levels of anxiety which increased with each minute.
The authors found the worst effects of commuting were witnessed in those whose journeys last between 61 and 90 minutes.
However, when commuting time reaches three hours or more the negative effects on personal well-being ‘disappear’, they said.
They also found that people who take the bus have lower levels of life satisfaction and are more likely to think their activities are not worthwhile.
Meanwhile, those who take the train to work have higher anxiety levels than people who travel in a private vehicle.
Cyclists who travel for 16 to 30 minutes each way had lower happiness levels and higher anxiety than those who travel between one and 15 minutes to work via any mode of transport.
And people who walk for the same amount of time had lower life satisfaction, a lower sense that daily activities are worthwhile and lower happiness levels.
People who spend more than half an hour on the bus are the least happy, according to the ONS
‘Given the loss of personal well-being generally associated with commuting, the results suggest that other factors such as higher income or better housing may not fully compensate the individual commuter for the negative effects associated with travelling to work and that people may be making sub-optimal choices.
‘The results suggest that although physical well-being may be enhanced by cycling and walking, getting exercise in this way on the daily commute may not necessarily have the stress-relieving qualities we would expect.’
Dr Daniel Newman, from Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute, said: ‘This report says what many of us who spend our mornings and evenings sat in traffic jams or packed like sardines on a rail carriage already know: commuting can be a chore.
‘Previous studies have shown that commuting affects our physical health: commuters are less likely to take exercise or eat home cooked meals while being more likely to suffer from insomnia and joint pain. It makes sense that such bodily ailments should impact on mental health.’