Commuting Takes Its Toll

Workers are traveling ever longer to attain the job or home life they want, but the daily stress may outweigh the gains

WHEN ACCIDENTS snarl traffic and bad weather cripples mass transit, images of frustrated commuters often lead the nightly news. But the normal, everyday insanity that commuters endure is the bigger story.

Mobility is a prime mover in today's job markets. Workers who want to “make it” have to be flexible and willing to take the punishment. Move to another branch office? No problem. Still want that nice house in the country? Absolutely. The result of our desires is that more and more people commute, and more travel longer than ever. The percentage of Americans with a commute greater than 90 minutes a day nearly doubled between 1990 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The added time and distance may not be worth the hassle, however. Research from around the world is leading psychologists to conclude that the heightened stress that commuting puts on individuals and their families can easily overshadow the work and home gains they might realize.

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