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Are commuters sicker than other workers?

Are commuters sicker than other workers?


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Mobile working world: Does commuting make you sick?

Especially now in the cold season, when the days are getting shorter and shorter, many commuters go to work before sunrise and only come home after sunset. It is certainly not pleasant; but is commuting really bad for your health?

Almost every second employee commutes

As can be seen from the report “Mobility in the world of work” by Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), almost half of the employees in Germany (45 percent) are commuters, which means that their jobs are in a different circle from their homes. Commuting is not only a burden on the environment, but also leads to an increased health risk for employees, according to various studies. However, this is obviously not evident from the sick leave.

Less common and less sick

According to the current TK report “Mobility in the world of work”, commuters are generally less on sick leave than employees with a short commute, but they are more affected by mental illnesses.

As the health insurance company wrote in a statement, the evaluation showed that, statistically speaking, commuting commuters with 13.7 days absent in 2017 were half a day fewer on sick leave than working people with a short commute to work (14.2).

52.3 percent of employees who work close to home were on sick leave at least once, while commuters, at 49.4 percent, were only at least once absent last year.

Albrecht Wehner, responsible for the health reports at TK, said: "We are assuming the so-called healthy worker effect here, which means that people who are in good health are more likely to accept further commuting."

Long commutes get on your nerves

However, commuters, especially commuters, are more affected by psychological sick leave.

"Because the professions that are associated with commuting above average tend to be characterized by lower psychological stress, we assume that the higher psychologically-related absences result from commuting itself," said the telecommunications expert.

According to the TK study, 100 commuters accounted for 242 days off due to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, etc. in 2017.

For employees with a short journey, it was only 219 days. The number of days lost due to psychological reasons is almost 11 percent higher for commuters than for employees with local commuter traffic. The difference for women is around 15 percent.

The preliminary study of the TK 2012 had already shown that commuters often suffer from mental illnesses.

Road traffic is annoying

The TK stress study in 2016 had already shown that road traffic is one of the main causes of stress for workers.

A third - men and women alike - say they feel stressed by traffic.

"As a stress factor, road traffic has the same status as constant accessibility via smartphone, Facebook and the like," said Wehner.

Multiple exposure for women

According to the information, the proportion of employees whose place of work is in a different circle than their home is higher among men than among women.

"This is probably also due to the fact that women are still taking on more and more tasks at home and the multiple burdens on the household and childcare do not allow long commuting," explained Wehner.

"In addition, women work part-time more often, so that long journeys with shorter working hours are not worthwhile," said the expert.

The proportion of commuters varies significantly between the individual occupational fields. As expected, the highest proportion is recorded in aviation employees such as pilots and service specialists as well as sales staff.

Some commute 200 kilometers and more each way

The employees also take long journeys in many IT professions. The fewest commuters are in agricultural and food professions as well as in employees in private households such as housekeepers and cleaners.

“There are many social and service professions in almost every location. That is why there are fewer commuters here. The more specialized the profession, the fewer locations there are and the longer distances employees often have to travel. In addition, the time spent commuting only pays off if it is financially worthwhile, ”explained Wehner.

This is also reflected in the fact that the higher the level of training of employees, the greater the proportion of commuters.

Employees without or in training work less frequently outside their home area (38 percent commuters), employees with doctorates and other university degrees commute particularly long distances.

Almost every second commute from them. 7.5 percent of men and 5.4 percent of women cover 200 km and more each way.

Mental stress when commuting by public transport is lower

The second part of the report offers a literature review of the state of research on commuting and mobile teleworking. For this purpose, the Institute for Occupational Health Consulting (IFBG) evaluated 79 studies on behalf of the TK.

The meta-study shows that the number of commuters is continuously increasing, as are the commuting routes and thus the commuting times. The studies also show that the psychological stress when driving is greater than when commuting with public transport.

In addition, stress and days off increase with distance and travel time. “The overall view also shows negative effects of commuting on physical and social health, especially among women,” says Wehner.

Stomach and digestive problems can increase and risk factors for cardiovascular complaints such as body fat percentage and the BMI (body mass index) increase.

Sleep, social relationships and partnerships also suffer.

Counteract with healthy nutrition and balancing exercise

It is therefore important to use the study to also promote modern company health management.

"It is often not clear to many companies that intelligent shift schedules, good work organization and digitalization have a great impact on how much commuting is a burden," said Wehner.

“However, it is equally important that we address the issue beyond healthcare. Transport policy also has a major impact on how much commuting becomes a burden for employees, ”said the telecommunications expert.

And last but not least, the commuters themselves are also challenged. Some studies show that commuters eat more fast food, are more prone to excessive media consumption and that alcohol abuse is particularly noticeable in men.

"With their behavior, the employees also have an influence on how stressful commuting becomes for them and how they can counteract it - for example with a healthy diet, balancing exercise or with carpooling," explained health expert Wehner. (ad)

Author and source information


Video: A day in the life of a Filipino commuter. NXT (May 2022).