According to a Korean study, traveling time to work is not only a source of annoyance or fatigue. Beyond a certain duration, it would negatively impact the health of workers, and mental health in particular.
By metro or by car, the journey to work can be a source of stress, even more so if unforeseen circumstances may make you late. But timing also matters. According to a new study conducted in South Korea, people who take the longest to get to work have problems with being overweight, alcoholism and sleeping, and also share depressive symptoms.
More than an hour of travel and your mental health is derailed…
Public health researchers from Inha University in South Korea examined data from more than 23,000 working-age South Koreans. Their average daily travel time was 47 minutes, or almost 4 hours of travel per week. All participants answered a questionnaire inspired by the World Health Organization’s well-being index to assess their well-being.
- According to the compiled results, workers who took more than an hour to get to work were 16% more likely to have depressive symptoms than those whose commute was less than 30 minutes;
- In total, a quarter of respondents also reported feeling signs of depression.
The people most impacted were single men working more than 52 hours per week and low-paid women with dependent children.
Improve timetable and transportation
The fact that the study takes place in South Korea is no coincidence: it is one of the countries where the average travel time for employees is among the longest in the world. It is also the OECD country with the highest rate of depression. However, the analysis highlights the issue of travel time and the effect of longer days on our mental health.
“With little free time, people lack time to relieve stress and combat physical fatigue with sleep, leisure and other activities”analyze the researchers of the study.
Improving transport and providing a better working environment is therefore a priority way to also improve the mental health of employees. Another study conducted in the United Kingdom in 2018 concluded that active travel such as cycling or walking to the office when possible can improve mental health. Using teleworking more often could also allow employees to take a break from time to time.
Journey to the end of boredom: you have to give meaning to your journey
For Johanna Rozenblum, clinical psychologist and member of our committee of experts, since transport is harmful to mental health, it is also a question of investing in it differently.
“What we can also do is to take advantage of these journeys by making them favorable and giving them meaning. Depending on the journey, it is sometimes possible to listen to a mediation session, to read, to familiarize yourself with a new discipline through tutorials, take advantage of it to be in daily contact with people who matter or even sort out your emails or various procedures to be on task once at the office or at home. we cannot avoid these journeys, it is ultimately the meaning that we will give to them which will allow us to avoid this distress which can increase depressive symptoms.”