Our well-being and emotional health: Can a demanding commute affect them?

Right from the time a person wakes up their mind in constantly occupied with the thoughts of their commute to work.

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Several studies conducted globally have shown that long commutes have a significant impact on people's lives, both physically and mentally.

By Darshan Vyas

An average Indian residing in metro cities spends around 2 to 3 hours on their daily work commute (to and from work). The number goes higher in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune. A person has to fulfill 9 hours of professional work commitment on a daily basis, when we add the daily commute time the total time spent it adds up to 11 to 12 hours a day. On an average an individual works for 250 days in a calendar year, if a person spending 2 to 3 hours in commuting everyday they end up spending nearly 500 to 750 hours in commuting in a year. That is equivalent to 20 to 31.25 full days spent in commuting every year. 

The energy and enthusiasm for a long day’s work are significantly worn down by the time a person reaches the office, having battled through a choking crowd of a train or endless traffic jam on the road, braving sweltering heat or water-logged streets, and facing delays from buses or denials from cabbies. Not to forget the ever increasing pollution and worsening Air Quality Index across the metro cities of India. 

Several studies conducted globally have shown that long commutes have a significant impact on people’s lives, both physically and mentally. Below are the major impacted areas caused by long and a demanding daily commute.

Stress, Anxiety and Depression – Right from the time a person wakes up their mind in constantly occupied with the thoughts of their commute to work. From getting an auto on time to reach the nearest station or bus stop or catching the train or bus they seek to catch or the endless traffic jams on road if one is driving themselves to work or the increasing cab tariffs due to the time spent in traffic jams. The list goes on and on, with such a daily lifestyle it is bound to add stress as well as mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Reduced Productivity and Satisfaction – After battling the long commute and finally reaching the office, a person would need sometime to freshen up, settle down and get themselves up to speed to start delivering at work. By the time half the day has passed and the person has survived themselves from the ever demanding corporate world the person starts thinking of their way back home and the struggles of being in a crowded public transport or endless traffic jams or the endless dramas of the list mile transport (the autowalas). After all this when the person reaches home there is no time or energy left to exercise, socializing, or pursuing hobbies. This can lead to a reduction in productivity and overall satisfaction with life. As they say all work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

Poor Physical Health – The long daily commutes often involve multiple modes of transport and standing or sitting for long periods of time, not to forget the impact of weather (scorching summer heat or the heavy rains and floodings) and the ever increasing noise and air pollution. All these factors definitely have significant impact on ones health and which can contribute to health problems such as asthama, blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Poor Personal Life – Long commutes can take a toll on ones personal life. After having spent 11 to 12 hours outside home for work and long commutes, when a person is back home they seek personal space and time to recoup themselves. This leaves little time to be spent with ones parents, partner, children or friends. A person starts feeling alienated or distant from their own people and society. There have been several studies and research conducted on how not having enough time with your partner are leading to increased divorce cases around the world and how having limited to no time with children is pushing more and more children to depression, abuse, racism and increased chances of drugs and alcohol abuse.

No time to upskill – After a dreaded daily commute battle there will be no energy or mental space left for self development and upskilling. With such weekly schedules it is bound that majority of people would end up staying away from self-development and upskilling as they would prefer some time off and rejuvenate themselves during the weekends. Even if one strecthes themselves to do something the retention of knowledge is minimum and on a longer run the person will feel burnt out. If an individual works 6 days a week (including Saturdays) the chances of self development and upskilling are negligible.

Overall, long commutes can have a significant negative impact on people’s lives. It’s important for individuals to consider the potential impact of a long commute before accepting a job or choosing where to live. It is also important for companies to evaluate the impact of daily long commutes on their workforce, productivity, worklife balance and workforce happiness. To summarize, a long and demanding daily commute does impact your well-being and emotional health.

(The author is a Founder, InRadius Technologies. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the

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First published on: 27-04-2023 at 08:00 IST