Got a long commute to the office? A new study shows what exactly you're sacrificing to get to work.
Brown University researchers found that spending an hour every day commuting (say, a half-hour commute there and back) means that the average person gets 30.6 percent less time for sleep, 16.1 percent less time for exercise, 5.8 percent less time to eat with the family and 4.1 percent less time to prepare food -- all healthy behaviors.
Overall, "spending an additional 60 min daily commuting above average is associated with a 6 percent decrease in aggregate health-related activities and spending an additional 120 min is associated with a 12 percent decrease," researchers wrote in the Journal of Urban Health study.
The study was based on 24,861 people who participated in the American Time Use Survey. The researchers found that more than one in 10 people who had a full-time job spends two or more hours commuting to work.
The researchers also found that if someone were to increase the amount of time commuting every day from one hour to two hours, that change is linked with 23 percent less time exercising, 17 percent less time preparing food, 8 percent less time spent on family mealtime and 3 percent less time sleeping.
Surprisingly, researchers found that the amount of time spent watching TV technically decreased the longer the commute is, but people still spent a significant amount of time on it. For example, people who spend three hours per day commuting to work still manage to get in more than 100 minutes of time watching TV, on average, researchers found.
"People should recognize that long commutes may siphon time that could otherwise be spent on healthy activities, potentially [leading to] adverse health impacts," study researcher Thomas J. Christian, a public health research fellow at Brown, said in a statement. "Where possible, they might consider coping strategies to save time such as telecommuting, active commuting modes (walking or cycling), or even parking a bit farther away from their destination in order to walk for some additional physical activity."
In the United States, the average daily work commute is 25.1 minutes, according to 2009 government census data. Just over 86 percent of Americans drive a car, truck or van to work, while 5 percent of Americans reported that they take public transportation. A little over 13 percent of Americans have a less-than-10-minute commute, while 15 percent of Americans have a 15 to 19-minute commute, and 7.1 percent have a 45 to 59-minute commute.
Other research has linked long commutes with negative health outcomes. Take a look at the slideshow, and tell us in the comments: Do you think your commute is taking away from healthy activities? How would a shorter commute improve your well-being?
A study published last year in the Journal Of Health Economics showed that women's mental health is affected more than men's by a daily work commute. The study included data from the British Household Panel Survey, which found that women who had kids of preschool age also a fourfold increased risk of experiencing stress from their commute than men. "We know that women, especially those with children, are more likely to add daily errands to their commute, such as food shopping and dropping off and picking up children from childcare," study researcher Dr. Jennifer Roberts, of the University of Sheffield, told The Guardian. "These time constraints and the reduced flexibility that comes with them make commuting stressful in a way that it wouldn't be otherwise."
A 2011 study in the journal BMC Public Health showed that commuting by car, subway or bus is linked with extra stress, exhaustion, poor sleep and even more missed days from work. The study involved commute and health data from 21,000 people ages 18 to 65 who live in Sweden and work full-time. People who traveled via a vehicle to work were more likely to have health complaints than people who walked or biked to work, the researchers found.
A study in the British Medical Journal showed that breathing in the fumes from heavy traffic can hike up your risk of heart attack for the following six hours. The good news is the heart attack risk goes down gradually after that time frame. Researchers said it's not that the air pollution causes people to have heart attacks who wouldn't otherwise have them, but rather could hasten heart attacks in people who would have had one anyway, Medical News Today reported. That study included 79,288 people in the United Kingdom who had had a heart attack between 2003 and 2006. Researchers looked at the time of day of their heart attacks, and also looked at traffic pollution in different parts of the UK.
People whose commutes are longer than 15 miles in distance are also more likely to weigh more, according to research from Washington University in St. Louis. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine study showed that people have to travel that distance every day to go to work are also less likely to fulfill exercise recommendations. They also found that people traveling more than 10 miles a day to go to work are more likely to have hypertension. "It could just be a function of having less discretionary time to be physically active," study researcher Christine M. Hoehner, Ph.D., MSPH, told ABC News. "Or it could be related to people burning fewer calories because they're sitting longer."
Swedish researchers from Umea University have found a link between long commute times and divorce. The researchers found that couples who have to commute long distances have a 40 percent higher risk of divorcing than other people. Their findings are based on 2 million people in Sweden who were either married or living together, analyzed between 1995 and 2005. The researchers found that it's the first few years of traveling long distance for work that is particularly hard on couples.
A 2008 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that the length of distance you have to travel could actually influence whether you participate in social activities. The study included data from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey, which looked at commute times and the social nature of the trips. "Socially-oriented" trips included those to see friends or family; for entertainment purposes; to go to a wedding, funeral or other event; to go exercise or play sports; to go to school or a religious event; to take someone somewhere; to go to a meeting for an organization; to attend to an obligation; and to just do something fun (recreational). The researchers found that if a person's commute time was going to be longer than 20 minutes -- and especially if it was longer than 90 minutes -- the likelihood of the person participating in the social event decreased.
A study by Hewlett Packard showed that commuting can raise stress even higher than that of people who work as police officers and fighter pilots, BBC News reported. "The difference is that a riot policeman or a combat pilot have things they can do to combat the stress that is being triggered by the event ... but the commuter, particularly on a train, cannot do anything about it at all," study researcher Dr. David Lewis, of the International Stress Management Association told BBC News. "So it is this sense of helplessness combined with the stress that is perhaps the most worrying aspect of it." The researchers examined the heart rates of study participants after commuting during peak hours, and found that their heart rates were a lot higher than the "at rest" rate, The Guardian reported.
Learn how to commute to work on a bicycle with these steps.