A longer commute can affect job satisfaction and mental health

New research using Understanding Society data shows that longer commute times are associated with lower job and leisure time satisfaction, increased strain and poorer mental health.

The strongest effect of a long commute was on people’s level of satisfaction with their leisure time – because the more time they spend going to and from work, the less time they have for other activities. However, even though a long commute affected these different measures of wellbeing, it didn’t appear to lower people’s overall life satisfaction – unless they had a long commute throughout the time studied.

The research was carried out by Ben Clark and Kiron Chatterjee at the University of the West of England, based in Bristol, Adam Martin at the University of Leeds, and Adrian Davis at Edinburgh Napier University. They looked at six ‘waves’ of our data, giving them a sample of 26,000 workers in the UK between 2009 and 2015.

Kiron Chatterjee explained their findings further, saying: “The link between commute time and job satisfaction didn’t seem to apply to younger adults and people in lower income groups. We think younger people might see a long commute as a way of getting on in their career – and that older people might have more demands on their time, such as raising a family – or it may be that younger workers and those on lower salaries simply have less choice over where they live and work.

“Women’s job satisfaction was more affected by their commuting time than men’s, which may be because they still typically take on more household and family responsibilities than men do.

“A shorter commute could increase our wellbeing, but life satisfaction overall would fall if we lost the benefits of a long commute – such as earnings, and a house and job we like. So, the UK needs integrated policies on transport, land use, housing and employment so that people can find a house they can afford within easy reach of a job they want.”

Read the research