Commuting is bad for your health and marriage

Mumbai train

London Waterloo at 5.30pm is probably only a tad more civilized than this (pic courtesy of bellevision.com)

Although the kids are usually working themselves into a food-fueled frenzy at about 6.30pm, I managed to overhear this fact on the evening news: people who commute for 45mins or more are 40 percent more likely to divorce, according to a study conducted in Sweden.

It’s not that surprising when you consider how easily commuting can put you into a bad mood. There were days when I would come home seething and sweaty from a disastrous hour-long commute in London. The expert advice? Live closer to work. I am guessing these people have never tried to own more than a closet in central London. You’d need to be on a pretty packet to afford livable space in the city.

The same news program told us that nearly 8 percent of Americans now spend more than an hour commuting each way. The average in the United States is 25mins, and Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year getting to and from work. Maybe my years in London has made me completely out of touch, but this doesn’t actually sound that bad.

New research conducted by the Washington University of Medicine also reveals that those who commute 10 miles or more tend to have bigger waistlines and higher blood pressure, while 33 percent of those with a 90min commute report recurring back and neck problems.

All of these rather depressing statistics seem to be speaking to me personally. The English Husband and I are trying to find somewhere to live in London together as a family. Newsflash: I am returning to London on July 9 after my grand, year-long experiment in the United States. Having spectacularly failed to get a job that would enable our move, I am going to pack up the kids and our growing possessions and head back across the Atlantic. This makes the move sound easy, but it’s not.

One of the biggest things we need to do is to find somewhere to live. It sounds straightforward enough, but we are working with one income at the moment, we have two kids, we want decent storage and we need to be within walking distance of a good school. I’m fairly certain we are a real estate agent’s biggest headache.

The ‘C’ word springs to mind. We either compromise on space or location. It usually comes down to one of the two. We talked about moving further out of London and getting off my beloved tube map. As someone who will not have a car, I cling to the tube map like a child clings to his comfort blanket. But I think I am ready to move further afield and get more for our money. Plus, the schools outside of the inner city tend to be better.

This, however, means embracing a long commute. The Husband drives to work in Maida Vale (northwest London) – an average of 25mins one way from our one-bed flat – and his commute would more than double if we decide to head to the suburbs of south London, where things are more affordable.

And since I now know what this daily grind might do to my marriage, I am wondering if it would just be better to trip over each other in a small and expensive flat, and shelve the idea of a commute for another year. I’d like a study that researches what is more stressful: having not quite enough living space or traveling long distances to work. I want to see the results.

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8 Comments

Filed under American life, Getting around, transitions, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Commuting is bad for your health and marriage

  1. bite the bullet! life in the country is gorgeous and fun. and you are NEVER that far from a train station 🙂

  2. i can’t believe you are really coming back! i would like to see results of that study as well.

  3. frederique

    Oh dear Is this true? Sweden study really? well my couple does not stand much chance then. Mikael commutes 45 min each away and I need at least 1 and a half hour, sometimes 2 to get to and from work. We are thinking of living this way for a while so we can save money to buy a home but with this new discovery, i fear we might not get to the buying stage. (together that is)

    • I think this is true. I saw it on the evening news. I have not looked up the actual Swedish study, but I believe it’s from 2011. Honestly, I remember being so frustrated by my commute, and Emlyn was the usual target of my frustration. I hope you make it to the buying stage together! An hour and a half is a long time each way, though.

  4. frederique

    on another note, even if i am not completely converted to a life in the country ( meaning far away from everything) i am starting to think that there is a certain quality of life one gets when leaving outside the city. Things look better, nicer, bigger, cleaner. Having lived in a house now for over a year, i have difficulties seeing myself in a flat again. I am sure I could do it but it would have to be bright and in a nice building. But sure like you said, it is the commute that becomes the problem. One way to look at it is that it could be temporary, it’s possible to get a job somewhere else, closer to home. it takes a while, there are less opportunities outside cities but it can happen. I am really in two minds right now about this. I can see myself living far from my job because what we would get here is better than what we would get in the big city but on the other hand, time is important, time with family and kids, time to organise a life around work, etc…

    • I don’t know if I’m ready to leave the city, maybe I’ll never be ready. I was born and raised in a city and it’s a place I’m comfortable in. But I’m starting to wonder if living in the suburbs is that bad. We don’t really have the money to afford the quality of life I would like in a place such as inner-city London.
      The thing is, even though I was living in the city, I still had a pretty long commute (an hour each way). So I do feel like I was pretty frustrated by some aspects of city life and not getting that many benefits once I had the kids. Perhaps it’s a sign that I should move on.
      But here I am, ready to go back to London and contemplating tiny flats in zone 2. Why? I don’t know. I do feel like I’m at the stage where I would like a house and that’s not going to happen very easily unless we compromise on location.
      There is no perfect solution.

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