Can the mode, time, and expense of commuting to work affect our mental health?

Elsevier, Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Volume 21, September 2023
Garrido-Cumbrera M., Brace O., Galvez-Ruiz D., Lopez-Lara E., Correa-Fernandez J.

Commuting to work is an important part of many people's daily life, with travel times increasing constantly and becoming a growing problem. The aim of the present study is to assess the associations between commuting and poor mental health in workers. This is a cross-sectional study extracting information from the ‘Commuting, Daily Habits and Urban Health Survey’ in Mairena del Aljarafe (Spain), including a representative sample of 294 workers. Poor mental health was accessed using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). Associations were tested using Mann-Whitney and Chi-square tests, while Pearson's correlation was used for each item of the GHQ-12, and multiple linear regression was applied to explore factors associated with poor mental health. Of the 294 workers, the mean age was 43.1 years old, 46.6% female, 49% had a university education, 38.4% smoked, and 44.5% were overweight/obese. For their commute, 77.1% used a private motor vehicle (vs. 6.9% public and 16.0% active), spent 51.9 min/day (54.8 min/day private, 44.2 min/day public, and 39.3 min/day active), and expended €91.9/month (€99.7/month private, €59.0/month public and €59.5/month active). The multiple linear regression model shows that people who used their private motorised transport and those who spent more time on their commute to work are associated with poorer mental health. The results of this study show that both driving a motor vehicle and commuting time are associated with poorer mental health. Therefore, the use of public and/or active travel should be encouraged, as well as better management to improve traffic congestion and thus reduce travel times.