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According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, around 85 percent of Americans drive to work every day in their cars, and around 80 percent drive to work alone. A lot of people try to justify this behavior by saying they like the alone time and it gives them catch up with podcasts, audiobooks, or just have some time to zone out. But the reality is-aside from saving gas and reducing traffic-a number of recent studies have shown that not sharing a ride to work can have some seriously negative effects on your health. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who drove themselves to work over 10 miles or more per day were more likely to have heart problems, weight problems, and higher blood pressure. A Gallup survey found that people who drove for 90 minutes or more each day suffered from neck and back problems. A Swedish study even found that people who had 45-minute-or-more commute to get to work were 40 percent more likely to get divorced! A study in World Leisure Journal found that travel time is linked to feelings of time crunch, which leads to overall levels of stress.
But what's the cause of all these negative side effects? According to Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, being alone is bad for your health. He was quoted in a 2007 issue of the New Yorker by saying, "There's a simple rule of thumb: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten percent fewer social connections. Commuting is connected to social isolation, which causes unhappiness." Luckily the solution may be relatively simple: Don't drive alone. A study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that driving to work with friend or co-worker reduces a lot of these negative effects. When researchers asked participants to rank how they spent their spare time, commuting was at the bottom of the list. However, people surveyed who spent that time carpooling ranked it similarly to other activities like napping or watching TV. Driving with another person in your car enables you to drive in the carpool lane in most U.S. states (which will reduce your commute time), and of course every car taken off the road via carpooling reduces greenhouse gas emissions, saves gas, money, and traffic congestion.
Do you carpool to work? Have you found it makes your commute less miserable? We welcome you to share your experiences in the comments section below.
Your Commute Is Killing You (Slate.com)
"Long commutes cause obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia."
There and Back Again (New Yorker)
"People may endure miserable commutes out of an inability to weigh their general well-being against quantifiable material gains."
Long-distance commuters get divorced more often, Swedish study finds (Science Daily)
"Commuting to work can be advantageous in terms of income and career opportunities, and it presents a good alternative to moving."
Commuting linked to lower life satisfaction (Science Daily)
"The more time you spend getting to and from work, the less likely you are to be satisfied with life, says a new study. The research reveals exactly why commuting is such a contentment killer -- and surprisingly, traffic isn't the only reason to blame."