As offices start to reopen after pandemic-induced remote working, a growing number of companies are asking employees to return to the office either full- or part-time. While this is a good opportunity to socialize with colleagues, it may have negative effects on health, depending on how long the commute is.
A research project was conducted in late 2022 by obtaining data from the Swedish Longitudinal Survey of Health. The survey included responses from approximately 13,000 participants aged 16-64 on a range of topics such as lifestyle, occupation, stress, and pre-existing health conditions. The distance between each participant’s home and workplace, as well as the socioeconomic status of these areas, was also considered.
The research uncovered that commutes of over 3 km (1.9 miles) increased the likelihood of being physically inactive, overweight, and having poor sleep. Participants who worked more than 40 hours and commuted more than 5 hours each week were more likely to be physically inactive and experience sleep problems. The results showed that participants were more likely to have harmful drinking habits when their workplace was in a high socioeconomic status area or located near a bar.
Findings and Suggestions
The study revealed that where one works can have a big effect on many aspects of health, such as physical activity levels, weight, sleep, and drinking habits. Participants who commuted 3 km or less appeared to be more physically active, possibly due to the ease of commuting by bicycle or foot. To maintain a healthy weight, limiting access to alcohol both near home and work may also reduce alcohol consumption and harmful drinking habits.
While a lengthy commute can have negative health consequences, there are still many things one can do to ensure it does not affect health too much. Using active travel where possible is one way to get more physical activity into the day. It is important to plan and develop cities that take various aspects of residential life into account to maintain a healthy lifestyle.