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Women are more stressed by commuting to and from work than men, even though men spend more time each day on their daily commute, researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield report in the Journal of Health Economics.
Women are more stressed by commuting to and from work than men, even though men spend more time each day on their daily commute, researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield reported in the Journal of Health Economics. The authors said that while men are generally unaffected by commuting, it appears to have a negative effect on females' mental health.
The authors explained that commuting takes up a considerable amount of time for the majority of working people. They had set out to determine what effects commuting time might have on the psychological health of adult males and females.
The investigators believe women are more sensitive to how long they spend travelling to and from work because they spend more time on housework, childcare and other household tasks.
Professor of Economics, Jennifer Roberts, at the University of Sheffield said:
"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. These time-constraints and the reduced flexibility that comes with them make commuting stressful in a way that it wouldn't be otherwise."
The mental toll is greater on mothers with pre-school age children, the authors wrote. The psychological effect on them was found to be four times greater than for men with children of the same age.
The study found that even childless females in long-term relationships were also more affected than men.
Only single females with no children, those who could work flexible hours, and women whose partners were responsible for the bulk of childcare were unaffected by the daily commute.
When comparing men with other men, only those with pre-school age children suffered psychologically. Even so, in such cases they appeared to suffer less than childless women in relationships.
Professor of Social Policy, Paul Dolan, London School of Economics, said:
"Of course men also experience competing demands on their time, and so it may simply be that they are less affected by the psychological costs of commuting."
For this study, the investigators gathered data from the British Household Panel Survey - a yearly questionnaire of a nationally representative sample of UK households. The data includes details on health, well-being, economic and social factors, and employment.
12 questions in the survey relate to mental health, e.g. has the participant suffered insomnia because of worry, felt continuously under strain, regarded themselves as worthless, etc.
Commuting is an important component of time use for most working people. We explore the effects of commuting time on the psychological health of men and women. We use data from the British Household Panel Survey in a fixed effects framework that includes variables known to determine psychological health, as well as factors which may provide compensation for commuting such as income, job satisfaction and housing quality. Our results show that, even after these variables are considered, commuting has an important detrimental effect on the psychological health of women, but not men, and this result is robust to numerous different specifications. We explore explanations for this gender difference and can find no evidence that it is due to women's shorter working hours or weaker occupational position. Rather women's greater sensitivity to commuting time seems to be a result of their larger responsibility for day-to-day household tasks, including childcare and housework.