Your Commute Is Likely A Cause Of Unhappiness

I stumbled upon a report from the Scandinavian Journal of Economics titled: Stress that doesn’t pay: the commuting paradox. The abstract of the report was, as follows:

People spend a lot of time commuting and often find it a burden. According to standard economics, the burden of commuting is chosen when compensated either on the labor or on the housing market so that individuals’ utility is equalized. However, in a direct test of this strong notion of equilibrium with panel data, we find that people with longer commuting time report systematically lower subjective well-being. This result is robust with regard to a number of alternative explanations. We mention several possibilities of an extended model of human behavior able to explain this “commuting paradox”.

Neal Mueller visualized the paradox described in the report with a simple graph:

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 1.54.24 PM

He notes:

…a bad commute reduces happiness regardless of how long we’re exposed to it. Even the loss of a limb or winning the lottery doesn’t create a permanent and sizable shift in happiness, but a bad commute does. They call this the “commute paradox”.

Also found in a Gallop Poll on commuting:

Among employees who take more than 90 minutes getting from home to work, 40% experienced worry for much of the previous day — significantly higher than the 28% among those with negligible commutes of 10 minutes or less. Conversely, workers with extremely long commutes were less likely to have experienced enjoyment for much of the previous day or to say they felt well-rested that day.

I found this interesting personally as someone who has gone car-free. Simply put, life is too short for traffic. I calculated that not having a commute gave me 3.1% of my day back each day, M-F.  Doesn’t sound like much?  This equals +195.75 hours (+8.1 days) per year of driving time I’m getting back. My experience at 6 months was this life change is nothing short of spectacular.

Several years later I can’t imagine going back to personally driving a long commute every day. Time is too precious. The commuting paradox is real and something you should seek to remove from your life. It will never get better.