Stress of commuting worse for women

2011

Daily commuting is more stressful for women than for men, a new study by researchers in the UK suggests.

The study, published in the Journal of Health Economics, found that while women spend less time travelling to and at work than men, commuting has a negative effect on women's mental health. Men – somewhat surprisingly - are generally unaffected, the study claims.

The researchers suggest that this could be because women have a greater responsibility for day-to-day household tasks, such as childcare and housework, which makes them more sensitive to the time spent commuting.

"We know that women, especially those with children, are more likely to add daily errands to their commute such as food shopping and dropping-off and picking-up children from childcare," said Jennifer Roberts, Professor of Economics at the University of Sheffield and co-author of the study.

"These time-constraints and the reduced flexibility that comes with them make commuting stressful in a way that it wouldn't be otherwise."

The largest adverse effects seen were on women who have pre-school age children. The psychological impact on these women was four times as large as for men with pre-school children.

Even women in relationships but with no children were affected. The only women unaffected were those who were single with no children or who were able to work flexible hours or whose partners took primary responsibility for childcare.

The only men who suffered psychologically from their commute were those with pre-school age children – and even then the effect was smaller than for women in relationships but without children.

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