Even when there isn’t a transportation strike or terrible weather, longer commutes make people unhappier and more anxious. A study released today by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics confirms what most commuters already know but goes one step further.
The research identifies the kind of commute that causes the most misery as bus rides that last more than 30 minutes. For all forms of transportation together, the most unpleasant commutes are those 61 to 95 minutes long. And while even a short bus ride can reduce someone’s well-being, those who take subways or train only report negative effects when the ride exceeds 30 minutes.
In general, each additional minute of of commuting was associated with a decrease in well being and an increase in anxiety. The effects are relatively minor minute by minute, however, and have less of an impact on well being than employment, relationship status, and health. The effects vanish for commutes lasting over three hours, possibly because a longer commute allows for more productive work.
The study looked at approximately 60,000 people using data from the UK’s annual population survey—91.5% of whom were commuters (anybody who spends a minute or more traveling to work).
If commuting has these kinds of effects on well-being, benefits from better housing or higher income are at least partially negated, according to the study. That’s something that workers should keep in mind when figuring out where to live. Employers should also consider their workers’ potential misery when creating their telecommuting and compensation policy.