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UWE study finds longer commute to work reduces job satisfaction

The study found a longer commute reduces both job and leisure time satisfaction. Photo: ITV West Country

A national study conducted by the University of the West of England has found that every extra minute of commuting time reduces both job and leisure time satisfaction, increases strain and worsens mental health.

Researchers examined the impacts of commuting to work on the wellbeing of more than 26,000 employees in England over a five-year period.

Dr Kiron Chatterjee, an associate professor in travel behaviour at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), was principal investigator on the study.

While longer commute times were found to reduce job satisfaction, it is also clear that people take on longer commutes partly to increase their earnings, which in turn improves job satisfaction.

This raises interesting questions over whether the additional income associated with longer commutes fully compensates for the negative aspects of the journey to work."

– Dr Kiron Chatterjee

The study found those who walk or cycle to work do not report reductions in leisure time satisfaction as the same way as other commuter, even with the same duration of commute.

Bus commuters feel the negative impacts of longer commute time more strongly than users of other modes of transport.

Longer duration commutes by rail are associated with less strain than shorter commutes by rail, the research showed.

Women's job satisfaction is reduced more by longer commute times than that of men's.

"The findings indicate that longer journeys to work have adverse subjective wellbeing effects, particularly through loss of free time," Dr Chatterjee said.

On the other hand, longer commute times were not found to have a large impact on life satisfaction overall.

This is because people take on longer commutes for good reasons relating to improving their employment, housing and family situations and these factors serve to increase life satisfaction.

This does not mean that the negative subjective wellbeing impacts of longer commutes can be disregarded.

The acceptance that a long commute is a price to pay may only persist if it is considered unavoidable and a social norm."

– Dr Kiron Chatterjee

The average daily commute in England has risen from 48 minutes to 60 minutes over the past 20 years.

One in seven commuters spend at least two hours per day travelling to and from work.

Researchers used data from Understanding Society - a study that surveys 40,000 households per year - to examine how changes in subjective wellbeing were related to changing commuting circumstances.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, showed working from home, walking to work and shorter commutes increase job satisfaction.

26,000
employees were examined in England over a five-year period.

Shorter commutes make it more likely that an employee will remain in their job.

Job satisfaction was found to decrease with the amount of time spent travelling to work, with an additional 20 minutes of commuting being associated with the associated effect on job satisfaction as a 19% reduction in personal income.

"One finding that we did not fully anticipate at the study outset is the clear link between longer duration commutes, commuting mode and job satisfaction," Dr Chatterjee added.

He said job satisfaction could be improved if employees were able to reduce commuting time, work from home and either walk or cycle to work.