Data blog: How the length and type of your commute affects your happiness levels

By Giles Broadbent on February 12, 2014 10:07 AM |

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DATA

The relief that the second Tube strike failed to materialise led to palpable relief from London commuters.

But it also threw into stark relief the level to which the journey to work affects workers' general moods.

See our graphics below which quantify this phenomenon.

In detail
Comparing the personal well-being of those who regularly travel to work (commuters) versus those who work from home in their main job (non-commuters), shows that commuters were on average:

• Less satisfied with their lives.
• Rated their daily activities as less worthwhile.
• Reported less happiness and higher anxiety than non-commuters.

The longer the commute the more miserable people are. For example, each minute of commuting time is associated an average reduction of 0.002 points in how people rate their life satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10.

Holding other factors constant, the findings show that:
• Those who travel to work by bus or coach had lower levels of life satisfaction and a lower sense that their daily activities are worthwhile on average than those who travelled to work in a private vehicle.

• People who take the train to work had higher anxiety levels on average than those who travelled in a private vehicle.

• People who walk to work had lower life satisfaction and a lower sense that their activities are worthwhile on average than those who commute to work in a private vehicle.

• Those who reported travelling to work in "some other way" had higher life satisfaction and lower anxiety levels than those travelling in a private vehicle.


Holding all else equal, non-commuters:

• Rated their life satisfaction 0.14 points higher on average on the 0 to 10 point scale than commuters.
• Rated the sense that their daily activities are worthwhile 0.10 points higher than commuters.
• Rated their anxiety levels 0.18 points lower than commuters.
• Rated their happiness 0.19 points higher than commuters.

It is also important to consider that there may be systematic differences (both observed and unobserved) between those who regularly work from home and other people who do not.

Our models were only able to control for observed demographic characteristics which would be expected to capture some but not all of these differences.

In most cases, the worst effects of commuting on personal well-being are experienced during journeys lasting between 61 and 90 minutes. For example, holding all else equal, people travelling this length of time to work rated:

• Their life satisfaction 0.17 points lower on a scale from 0-10 compared with those travelling only up to 15 minutes to work.
• The sense that their daily activities are worthwhile 0.11 points lower on average than those travelling up to 15 minutes to work.
• Their happiness levels 0.19 points lower than those travelling up to 15 minutes to work.
• Their anxiety levels 0.32 points higher on average than those travelling up to 15 minutes to work.

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