Most people who work rely on driving to get there. Not only is driving bad for the environment, it significantly increases your chances for injuries as well as contributes to poorer health behaviours.
Several studies have shown that long car commutes perpetuates conditions that compromise health, including increased commute stress (e.g. traffic congestion) as well as the indirect effect of replacing time that could be devoted to healthier behaviours, such as increased time for physical activity, food preparation, spending time with family and friends, and sleep. Furthermore, driving-related sitting adds to sedentary behaviour, which has also been linked to increased risk for chronic disease. One study even found that each hour spent in the car was associated with a 6% increase in the odds for obesity.
Up until recently, researchers didn't really know if their was a dose-response effect from driving on poorer health (i.e. the more driving, the poorer health would be) and so...
THEY ASKED THE QUESTION…
Is longer driving time associated with worse health behaviours and outcomes?
They conducted a cross-sectional study, that incorporated 37,570 middle-and-older-aged adults living in New South Wales, Australia. They asked every one of these people “About how many hours in each 24 hour day do you usually spend driving?”.
The researchers also assessed the following health behaviours:
Smoking risk (smoker or non-smoker)
Alcohol risk (consuming greater than 14 alcoholic drinks per week)
Dietary risk (not consuming 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables each day)
Physical activity risk (engaging in less than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week)
Sleeping risk (sleeping for less than 7 hours per day)
Sitting risk (sitting for more than 8 hours or more per day)
And the following health outcomes:
Obesity (BMI greater/equal to 30)
General health (“In general, how do you rate your overall health?”)
Quality of life (“In general, how do you rate your quality of life?”)
Psychological distress (Kessler-10: a psychological stress scale)
Time stress (“How often do you feel rushed or pressed for time?”)
Social functioning (“How much time during the past four weeks have your physical health or emotional problems interfered with your social activities?”)
From here, the researchers examined the associations of driving time with each of the above health behaviours and outcomes, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics.
The researchers found that longer driving time was associated with higher odds for smoking, obesity, insufficient physical activity, short sleep and worse physical and mental health. The associations consistently showed a dose-response pattern, meaning the longer time spent driving was associated with worse health behaviours and outcomes.
Driving for more than 2 hours per day had the strongest and most consistent associations with majority of poorer health outcomes.
Driving is a potential risk factor for a cluster of poorer health behaviours and outcomes.