Publication Detail

Commuting and Wellbeing: A Critical Overview of the Literature with Implications for Policy and Future Research  

UCD-ITS-RP-19-26

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Suggested Citation:
Chatterjee, Kiron, Samuel Chng, Ben Clark, Adrian Davis, Jonas De Vos, Dick Ettema, Susan L. Handy, Adam Martin (2019) Commuting and Wellbeing: A Critical Overview of the Literature with Implications for Policy and Future Research  . Transport Reviews: A Transnational Transdisciplinary Journal 39 (6)

This review provides a critical overview of what has been learnt about commuting’s impact on subjective wellbeing (SWB). It is structured around a conceptual model which assumes commuting can affect SWB over three time horizons: (i) during the journey; (ii) immediately after the journey; and (iii) over the longer term. Our assessment of the evidence shows that mood is lower during the commute than other daily activities and stress can be induced by congestion, crowding and unpredictability. People who walk or cycle to work are generally more satisfied with their commute than those who travel by car and especially those who use public transport. Satisfaction decreases with duration of commute, regardless of mode used, and increases when travelling with company. After the journey, evidence shows that the commute experience “spills over” into how people feel and perform at work and home. However, a consistent link between commuting and life satisfaction overall has not been established. The evidence suggests that commuters are generally successful in trading off the drawbacks of longer and more arduous commute journeys against the benefits they bring in relation to overall life satisfaction, but further research is required to understand the decision making involved. The evidence review points to six areas that warrant policy action and research: (i) enhancing the commute experience; (ii) increasing commute satisfaction; (iii) reducing the impacts of long duration commutes; (iv) meeting commuter preferences; (v) recognising flexibility and constraints in commuting routines and (vi) accounting for SWB impacts of commuting in policy making and appraisal.

Key words: Commuting, long duration commutes, stress, commute satisfaction, subjective wellbeing, life satisfaction