social living

The Damaging Effects of Commuting

How would you feel if your job asked you to take a 19% pay cut? Not great, I bet.

Researchers in England found that adding 20 minutes onto your commute per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as a 19% pay cut. And since a 19% pay cut could be a pretty big stressor for some people, especially those who live in bigger cities where the cost of living is higher, why do so many people accept longer commutes? 

Although there has long been an ideal of owning a house in the suburbs with a picket fence and a garden, advancements in technology should provide alternatives to long commutes. Remote work can replace most office jobs, which would cut down on commute times and the associated environmental effects of those looking to live the dream of settling down in the suburbs. Minimalism and the rise of the eco-conscious consumers is also making more millennials choose smaller condos over sprawing homes in the suburbs, which could positively affect their commutes to work, as they are frequently closer to city centers. With all these options, the negative impacts on job satisfaction due to commuting should cause some employers to rethink the typical 9 to 5 office job.

More people are getting pushed out of cities due to lack of housing or lack of affordability. This is generally increasing commute times to jobs. In fact, from 1990 to 2000, the rate of commutes that were longer than 90 minutes per day nearly doubled. These longer commutes are taking their toll on the population, leading to higher levels of stress, higher blood pressure, sleep disturbances and concentration problems. There are also physical impacts to these longer commutes, from headaches and backaches to digestive problems and obesity. An increase in respiratory problems, due to the increased exposure to air pollution, has also been reported.

There are ways to make commutes more pleasurable. Finding alternatives to driving alone, including biking, public transit or car pooling, have all been said to increase commute satisfaction. If you don’t have any choice but to drive alone, try listening to podcasts or soothing music, or varying the route you take to help stimulate your brain. Increasing your activities outside of work will also help to improve overall life satisfaction. If you’re sitting in traffic and then at your desk all day, try taking up an active pastime to reduce the physical effects of commuting, as well as to lower stress levels. Ensure you make time for friends and family as well, since many commuters say that it takes a toll on them socially. 

Beyond hoping that your job offers you the opportunity to work remotely or waiting for prices in cities to fall, what are real solutions for those faced with super-commutes? One option is to find a home and place of work that allows for easy transit options. In Toronto, subways, streetcars and the UP Express are a few options that allow for seamless, longer commutes. The UP Express offers those located near the airport, Weston Road and the Junction Triangle quick access to the downtown core in a shorter time than the subway routes. This convenient option is why Sociable Living chose to build our co-living homes in the Junction area. When commuters can rely on quick and accessible transit to take them to their jobs, they are able to relax on their commute, instead of being stressed while stuck in traffic.

For more affordable options in places to live, many people are looking for shared spaces to rent, as opposed to having a house to themselves. In fact, studies show that people are living with roommates longer than ever, due to getting married later, increasing student-loan debts and rising housing costs. In fact, a quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 to 35, typically referred to as the millennial generation, are living with roommates. Options for co-living, where you live with carefully selected strangers, are also increasing. Most major cities in North America, including Toronto, New York and LA, have multiple co-living options available, which showcases the importance of roommates in large metropolitan areas. 

Although the average American commuter spends 42 hours per year stuck in rush-hour traffic, that doesn’t mean that it is the best way to live. Commuting is a very real trend that is negatively impacting many people. Real solutions exist to combat both the length of commutes and their negative effects. Rush hour traffic will only increase as more people move out of urban areas and into the suburbs to find affordable housing options.

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