Personal Finance 

Long Commutes Are Terrible For You

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A few years ago, in support of a client at Bolling Air Force Base, I had a one hour commute that loathed. Whenever I had to drive to the base, I made sure I scheduled my meetings so that I could avoid the horrendous traffic I would inevitably face. There was one particularly horrific commute in which a little bit of rain (we’re talking light rain, not a torrential downpour) made the commute a full three hours. No exaggeration, I sat on 295N for hours.

It turns out that my hatred for commutes wasn’t without reason – researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a finding that couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40% likelier to divorce (from Slate). In fact, they make you lonely, causes back and neck problems, you spend less time with the things that matter, it makes you fat, and basically they suck. The average one way commute is 24 minutes, according to the same Slate article.

According to Slate, it appears we do this to ourselves so we can afford more house.

How long is your commute and why do you do it?

{ 30 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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30 Responses to “Long Commutes Are Terrible For You”

  1. I’m reading a book now called “Why We Hate Us” by Dick Meyer that gives a lot of similar findings about long commutes. Unsurprisingly NYC where I’m from is home to many of the worst commutes.

  2. cubiclegeoff says:

    My commute is between 50 min and an hour 15 minutes, depending on traffic. It’s all backroads so it doesn’t get as bad usually. My company is located far out of the city, and it was hard to find a place with decent schools, relatively affordable housing, a town center, and public transit into the city that worked for me and my wife. So we don’t have an ideal situation, but we survive.

  3. SMB says:

    I have a completely average commute–about 25 minutes. I live and work in Seattle. When I lived in Austin, TX and Boston, my commutes were longer–about 45 minutes to 1.25 hours. The 25 minutes commute now seems like NOTHING.

  4. DJ Wetzel says:

    My commute is right at 55 minutes one way. I work at a large public university. I took the job because the salary is 20% higher than any salary I could get within a 20 minute drive, I am able to take Master’s and Doctoral classes for FREE, and it is my Alma Mater, so it is a homecoming of sorts.

    I am not considering moving, because housing is very, very expensive around the college (college students drive up housing prices) and the local public K-12 schools are not the best. All in all, its a great deal for me. I listen to audiobooks every day and actually enjoy my commute.

  5. lostAnnfound says:

    As long as it takes me to walk from the kitchen to my office area, since I started working from home 14.5 years ago.

  6. Adam says:

    Those with the grit do what has to be done. Life is tough, and often it’s harder than we want it be. Lest we forget, this is still the land of opportunity. I’d much rather commute, then be broke with no job. Frankly, it’s time to get over it and get after it.

  7. Amy Saves says:

    my commute is around 15-30 minutes depending on traffic. i would never be able to sit in traffic for an hour every day.

  8. Ice says:

    My commute is around 10-15 minutes. I paid double the rent just to avoid sitting an hour in traffic to and from work.

  9. Texas Wahoo says:

    “It turns out that my hatred for commutes wasn’t without reason – researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a finding that couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40% likelier to divorce (from Slate).”

    That makes sense – since one spouse is often commuting so far so that the other spouse can be closer to work. It would make sense that the divorce rate would be higher if you have a problem that may be caused by the relationship.

  10. Sarah says:

    I commute two hours each way, but it’s all by train/subway. Still, it’s hard on a person. I’m looking for something closer to where I live now.

    • tbork84 says:

      I was in a similar situation a few years back. I managed to find a place closer to where I work and now my commute is 30-45 minutes bus and subway. Its a totally different and much better experience each day.

  11. Tommy says:

    I live 25 west of Boston and commute in every day. With no traffic, I can get to work in 35 door-to-door. During “rush hours” it’s almost 90 minutes. I do it because I have a house that I can afford, a half acre of land on which I raise much of my own food, and space to have a dog. It’s worth not living in the city.

  12. Trainman says:

    takes me about an hour and forty five minutes, but I take the commuter train. No stress at all, just sit back and enjoy the ride/ maybe get some work done.

    • Shirley says:

      Though not a personal experience, I have heard several people say that they enjoy the non-driving commute to work to plan their day and the commute home to unwind.

      • cubiclegeoff says:

        I believe in the Los Angeles area, there is even a car on one of the trains that has drinks for the afternoon commute.

  13. zapeta says:

    My commute is under 30 minutes each way and I take the bus. Its awesome to not stress out about driving, not to mention the money I save.

  14. govenar says:

    My commute is about 3 minutes.

    • Shirley says:

      My last position (bkpr starting at 3:30 AM = no traffic) was also about 3 min away. It made the position before it, at 15 min away (same company, neighboring town) seem- in retrospect- like it had taken forever. Maybe we’re spoiled? 😉

  15. Jin6655321 says:

    Well I live in the DC Metro so my commute can be anywhere from 40 minutes to 2.5 hours… one way.

    My normal job is about 40 minutes to 1.5 hours away but a few months ago I accepted a temporary promotion that added an extra 20 miles (one way) to my commute. An extra 20 miles around here can mean an extra hour on the road, easy. I take comfort in knowing that 1) It’s temporary. 2) I’m getting some great experience that will help me in my career. 3) I’m getting very well compensated to do this.

    Still, it is a stress on my marriage. I am much crankier than I was before. My last job also had a very aggressive commute and it went from a job that I LOVED to a job that I didn’t like pretty quickly. Now I have a new rule: I will never take a (permanent) job that causes me to take the Beltway.

  16. Martha says:

    My commute varies depending on the traffic, no traffic less than 30 minutes, traffic can mean more than an hour! I drive towards DC every day; and although I avoid the beltway I still sometimes get stuck with those who are waiting to get on it!

    For about two years I had a commute of 10-15minutes and I LOVED it. I even got to come home for lunch! But I took this position (a grad student) so that I will be qualified for better jobs in the future!

  17. I’ve actually upped my commute time recently, because I started biking to work (just 8 miles).

  18. PSpr says:

    My commute is an hour and fifteen minutes, on a good day. This commute has been the same for 4 years, since we move from when it was only 35 minutes away (same job). We move to be able to afford a better house with lower taxes for our larger family. I have tried finding something closer to whom, or at least shorter. Instead, I am finding the salaries are significantly lower closer to home, and while I am OK with taking a reduced salary due to decreases expenses and time, what is available will not support the family.

  19. No Debt MBA says:

    My commute is a 20min WALK which I love. It’s almost dumb luck that it worked out that way though it’s certainly something I’ll try to arrange in the future.

  20. Danish Kem says:

    I currently have a 10 minute walk to work, which I have been enjoying for almost a decade.

    However, I’m in the market to purchase a house…..and commute has been an important factor. The farther I go from my job, the more house I can afford. But I hate driving and don’t think I will make that mistake.

    Long commutes = stress.

  21. billsnider says:

    I am retired, so my commute is zero.

    When I did work (horrible years), I use to commute 2 hours by train. I did this for 7 ugly years. I changed jobs to make it a “fast” 40 minutes.

    Bill Snider

    • Martha says:

      Its interesting that one’s happiness depends so much on our expectations. I used to have a commute that was always (+/- 10 minutes) 30 minutes. Although it was longer than others, it was the only option and I never minded driving that much. Now that my commute is a similar length; but can vary by up to an extra 30 minutes I’m not happy with it! But if you’re used to a commute of 2 hours; 40 minutes seems like a piece of cake!

  22. Randy says:

    I am a on-site property manager so my commute is about 50 ft. The only problem is that I always feel like I am at work.

  23. My commute used to be 45 minutes to 90 minutes each way, and it really took a toll on me. I’m glad my new commute is seconds away, from one room to another 🙂

  24. ziglet19 says:

    I also have a commute of zero minutes, since my company closed their local office a few years ago and has had me just working from home since. Whew! But before the office closure, my commute was only about 10 minutes, which was great by southern California standards. I’m very lucky to still have a job, but no commute!

  25. skylog says:

    there are pros and cons to everything in life. this is one i have on my side. i have about a 5-7 minute walk to work in the morning.

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