Crowded subways, packed buses, traffic jams, and busy schedules make commuting a stressful experience for many people. But a new study says it's especially anxiety-producing for women—more so than for men.

Multitasking and Mental Health
Generally speaking, men spend more time commuting to and from work than women, but travel affects women's mental health more. That's what researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield reported in the Journal of Health Economics when they analyzed data from the British Household Panel Survey on participants' health, well-being, and economic, social, and employment status. The researchers concluded that while men are generally unaffected by commuting, it appears to have a negative effect on women.

The stress seems to be associated with the many different roles women fill both at work and home, especially those related to childrearing responsibilities. Commuter stress is highest for women with children, but it is also stressful for child-free women in long-term relationships. Men with pre-school aged children reported somewhat more commuter stress than did men with older children and child-free men, but overall, most men reported considerably less commuter stress than women did. Only single women with no children experienced stress levels comparable to men's commuter stress.

Some of this stress can be attributed to many women's conflicting emotions about time spent away from their families. Additionally, some women feel that time spent simply traveling from one place to the next is wasted time. That's because women are more likely than men to add errands like grocery shopping and child pick-ups and drop-offs to either end of their commute. So commuting delays like missed busses, stalled trains, and being stuck in traffic cause women more stress, since these inconveniences affect how much time working moms can spend with their children and on home responsibilities.

What can men and women do to lessen the stress of commuting? Many employers are embracing flexible hours and the use of home offices to ease the burden of commuting on employees. When that's not an option, many families find creative ways to divide and conquer home responsibilities so time spent commuting and working is less stressful.

Tips for Making Your Commute More Calming
Here's how to take away some of the frustration and anxiety of traveling to and from your job:

  • Make a list of all the errands your family frequently runs like grocery shopping, prescription pickups, dry cleaning drop-offs, and more. Divide them fairly between family adults so that no one is overburdened.
  • Create a chart of all household chores like cooking, cleaning and laundry. Share them evenly between household members. Even young children can help by putting away dishes and matching socks.
  • Run errands and do major chores on weekends to minimize stress during the workweek.
  • Pre-cook dinners, and pack them in your freezer.
  • Arrange to start and end your workday before or after rush hour to shorten the time spent commuting.
  • Make the best of it. Use commuting time to relax and de-stress. Carry a book for reading on trains. Load up an iPod with podcasts and music. Carpool with friends. Bring healthy snacks. Use commuting time to relax, distress and make an easy transition between work and home.



Roberts J, Hodgson R, Dolan P. "It's Driving Her Mad: Gender Differences in the Effects of Commuting on Psychological Health." Journal of Health Economics 2011; 30(5):1064-76. doi:10.1016/j.jhealeco.2011.07.006