How Long Does It Take for Your Commute to Become Hell?

Commutes are either a pain in the arse or quality downtime, right? Or is there a happy in-between?


If asked how long your ideal commute would be, your first thought would probably be, “no commute at all.” A lot of studies would back you up on that, too—many, many, many articles have been written on the subject of how traveling to and from work, even just short distances, is seriously hurting your health, and they have the studies to back them up. But as usual, there’s more than one side to the story. We did a little digging to see if there’s a commute time that actually works

The Good Side
If you enjoy a little alone time on your drive home—some time to think, listen to a podcast, or rock out to your lovingly crafted playlist—you’re not alone. Some people treasure this time so much that they’d actually prefer a more substantial commute to what they currently have. In fact, when roughly 1,300 workers in San Francisco were asked their ideal commute times during this 2001 study, nearly seven percent said they wished they had a commute that was at least five minutes longer than their regular one

So why do these workers prefer a substantial commute to none at all? This study suggests that workers are able to detach themselves from the stress of work during their commute, so that they feel more relaxed when they get home. Also, if you happen to walk or cycle to work, you’re in luck: A study at the University of East Anglia claims active commuters are not only happier than those who drive to work, but they’re also better at concentrating.

The Bad Side
A traffic-filled commute to work doesn’t just suck, it sucks the life out of you—literally. Out of the 173,581 working adults polled in this survey, those who spent over 30 minutes commuting each way were significantly more likely to experience back and neck pain, high cholesterol and obesity. They were also generally less satisfied with life than their less-traveled counterparts. The longer your commute, the worse it gets: If you’re one of the 10.1 percent of workers who spend over two hours traveling to work, you can expect a six percent decrease in time spent sleeping, exercising and preparing your own food—you know, all those things that help you to stay alive.

The Perfect Commute?
You’re probably thinking, “Okay, so where’s the middle ground? How can I decompress from work without spending so much time in the car that I become an obese road rager?” According to the researchers who conducted the poll in San Francisco, the ideal commute is 16 minutes each way. If you’re somewhere in that ballpark, your back isn’t aching and you’re not a total stress ball when you get home, chances are you’ve got this commuting thing down. That said, it ultimately comes down to what’s right for you: If you need 30 minutes to really sing the hell out of “All By Myself” while sobbing in traffic to get over your day, you go right ahead. We won’t tell.