Long commute can negatively effect health, relationships, experts say

by | Feb 10, 2017 | Life, News

Hiba Traboulsi
Life Reporter      

A report in a recent edition of Evening Standard magazine declared the stress of even a 30-minute commute can be severely detrimental to your well being.

Moreover, for some Humber students that time can be doubled or more depending on where they are coming from.

Ryan Williams, a third year Media Studies student at University of Guelph-Humber drives up to 90 minutes from Pickering to get to school. When he takes the bus, he spends two hours on the road in one direction.

“There’s times when I doze off while driving, so I’ll have to stop the car and take a nap because my commute is so long,” Williams said.

Williams’ long commutes do not allow him to spend much time to maintain his health.

“With two hours on the road, there’s not a lot of time for me to exercise. I also end up eating a lot of fast food because I’m always on the go,” he said.

Other students feel restless and achy on their long trips. Fourth year Interior design student, Nour Kassab commutes to Humber North campus from Mississauga. Her bus ride is two hours long.

“It’s a killer, especially in the morning when I have 8 a.m. classes. I have to wake up three hours before,” Kassab said.

“Getting stuck in traffic in rush hour and finding no where to sit on a full bus ruins my mood and unmotivates me,” she said.

According to a 2014 study by the University of Waterloo for the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Torontonians have the longest commute, averaging around 65 minutes one way.

Associate professor at Ryerson University and director of Regionomics Inc, a consulting firm, Haider Murtaza analyzes urban systems and studies commuter stress. Murtaza said studies he conducted show that the mode of transportation is not a significant stressor in commuting.

“Stress levels were not as dependent upon whether they [the participants] travelled by public transit or by car, and not necessarily as dependent on how long the commute was, but if you would control for all the factors, it was based on how frequently they encountered congestion,” Murtaza said.

Haider also said individuals who used public transportation experience more stress than drivers, as public transit users have no control over their commute.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Eileen De Villa, says that such stress influences people’s relationships at home.

“You come home and you’re stressed out because of your commute, you’re less likely to be patient with those around you and that has a negative impact on the health of your relationships,” said De Villa.

Health implications are further stressors, as movement is limited during commutes.

“We know that students do spend a fair amount of time, even outside of travel, sitting at a desk, and if you add that to sitting in a car for hours at a time, it adds a fair amount of sedentary time to one’s day, which we know you can’t simply make up for by going to the gym,” said De Villa.

Spokesperson for the Ontario Chiropractic Association, Dr. Stacy Irvine says there are many risks that lack of movement can cause to our health such as weight gain, increased risk of mental health issues, lack of blood flow, increase risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

“When you don’t use your muscles all day because you’re commuting, we see a lot of muscular atrophy and lot of postural changes so it becomes more difficult to be active without getting injured,” said Irvine.

Irvine encourages daily physical exercise, especially for commuters. Sitting in a car, bus or train for long periods of time can be detrimental to bodies. Adding 30 minutes of physical activity can help keep the blood flowing and exercise muscles.

Some ways to make your daily commute easier whether you’re driving or taking public transportation is to leave 10 to 15 minutes earlier. This can help alleviate stress as it will give you extra time in case there is traffic. Eileen De Villa suggests reading, listening to music or podcasts as they can make great diversions while making your commute less stressful as well.