We talk about work life and we talk about home life, but we rarely discuss the in-between time—your commute.
There’s good reason for that: A 2006 survey found that commuting was dead last on women’s lists of favorite activities, even below working and housework.
The minutes spent commuting add up to hours, days, and weeks out of the year. Case in point—the average American commute is about 25 minutes, and begins between 7:30 and 8:00 am. So that’s 25 minutes each way, five days per week, adding up to over 16 hours per month.
Strangely, that average 25 minutes makes American commutes one of the shortest among developed countries. Doesn’t that seem suspect? It turns out that commute length in the United States is particularly difficult to measure, due to the sheer size of the country, the discrepancy between car and public transit commutes, and possibly inaccurate methodology on behalf of the U.S. Census Bureau.
But no matter how long your trip, it’s still a commute.
And commute time and happiness are closely related. Here, we’ll break down the ways commute time can affect your relationships, wealth and well-being.
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It Can Take a Toll on Our Relationships
According to a study of 2 million Swedes, couples in which one person commutes 45 minutes or longer are 40 percent more likely to divorce. “To be able to commute to work can be a positive thing because it means you don’t have to uproot your family with every career move, but it can also be a strain on your relationship,” Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University and lead author of the study, told the Swedish publication the Local.
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It Can Make Us Lonely
One author theorizes that every ten minutes spent commuting means 10 percent fewer “social connections,” or those person-to-person interactions that make us, the social animals known as humans, feel fulfilled. And the longer you commute, the unhappier you might become. A 2010 Gallup poll found that 40 percent of workers with commutes longer than 90 minutes worried about it for the entire preceding day.
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It’s Rough on Our Health
While it seems like common sense—if you’re in the car, you’re not at the gym—studies show that each minute spent commuting has been proven to reduce time spent on constructive behaviors like preparing food, exercising, and sleeping. A Brown University study determined that workers with longer commutes–regardless of the length of their workday–are likelier to buy fast food and have unhealthier habits than those who commute less. In fact, miles traveled by vehicle is more closely associated with American obesity than any other factor!
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And, It Can Cost Us Money
To find out exactly how much your commute by car costs you, check out this cool commute calculator. Those numbers don’t take into account money spent on the extra time your child needs to be in daycare, with a nanny or at an after-school activity. Or the cost of train, bus, or subway tickets. Or the cost of snacks to sustain you through the trip. Or that Kindle you needed “for your commute.”