Researchers from the University of the West of England found that a 20 minute increase in round-trip commute time has the same effect on job satisfaction as a 19% reduction in income.
The Commuting and Wellbeing Study found that with each additional minute of commute time, your work satisfaction plummets, as does the state of your mental health and how much you enjoy your free time. Meanwhile, your stress levels spike.
The research team looked at how commuting affected the wellbeing of more than 26,000 people working in England between 2009-2010 and 2014-2015, and the “findings are based on data from” other research called Understanding Society.
Here’s what you need to know about how your commute could be affecting your life:
A long commute is a downer, with a few notable exceptions
In what will not come as news to anyone who has a long or unpleasant commute, the researchers found that “longer journeys to work have adverse subjective wellbeing effects, particularly through loss of free time.”
Yet, researchers found, a frustrating commute isn’t necessarily a death sentence for your happiness — particularly if you accepted the longer commute knowing that it was for a job you enjoy or are well compensated for.
In addition, if everyone else has a similar commute, you may accept it as normal, researchers found.
The “acceptance” of lengthier commutes being an unavoidable part “may only be retained if the commute is considered unavoidable and a social norm,” researchers found.
Active commuters are happier than passive ones
Taking certain differences between people into account, people who bike to their job “have higher self-reported health” than those who are stuck behind the wheel of a car or in a seat on a bus, researchers found.
People who take the train and drive to work were more stressed out than those who take the bus, researchers found.
But the simple shift of mode of transport to something more active like biking — or walking — led to more enjoyment of free time and one’s job and less stress, researchers found.
What employers can do
Employers, take note: the study found that there’s greater job satisfaction when employees work from home, which is one surefire way to give them shorter commute times.
Having a quicker commute also ups the chances of an employee remaining at their company.