Long Commutes: Bad for the Heart


A new study finds that, in addition to being a real downer, long commutes are related to bad health. Conducted by Christine Hoehner, Carolyn E. Barlow, Peg Allen, and Mario Schootman, the study found that long commutes are correlated with higher blood pressure and bigger waistlines.  “This is the first study to show that people who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure,” said Hoehner. “All those are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.”

The study didn’t specifically examine diet, exercise, or sleep habits, but Hoehner suggests they may be to blame. “It could just be a function of having less discretionary time to be physically active,” said Hoehner. “Or it could be related to people burning fewer calories because they’re sitting longer.”

Alan S

Headline suggests a causal link. Surely this is more than the study itself would claim to have found. Study only talks about correlations. Cum hoc ergo propter hoc, etc.

Instinctively, a causal link seems highly plausible (to me, anyway), but I think it's unproven.


This is the opposite of Freakonomics: this is correlation and selection at its worst.


Longer commute = lower income = less healthy

Mr. Big

So THAT'S why I'm a tub-o-lard... that 3 mile, 10 minute commute is killing me!

(I know that is not the reason - I just thought I'd be an a***ole and troll for those poor souls who have commutes from hell) ;-)


Was this only for people who commute by car? I'd imagine a long subway commute with a few transfers is quite different from sitting in car for an hour.


yeah exactly - my 10 mile cycle commute keeps me pretty fit!


Not surprising, as it correlates with the adverse health effects of sitting generally: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17sitting-t.html


Not sure about the study data, but this article should say that it's about CAR commuting. There are many other modes of getting to work. My husband rides his bike an hour each way to work and it keeps him fit and happy.


I agree strongly with the earlier comments. The headline and first sentence egregiously conflate correlation and causation! This is shameful from Freakonomics and it should be edited immediately for the integrity of this wonderful blog and for the sake of the brand Freakonomics!


Don't like the results of the study, so complain about the methodology. So transparent...

John Murphy

Depends on how you do the commute. http://www.sf2g.com/

Jacqueline Boerefijn

In the Netherlands we don't suffer like this.... http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679248/dutch-kids-pedal-their-own-bus-to-school


Not much of a "hidden side" here. I think most people would guess that generally those with long commutes get less exercise.
On the other hand, I live 30 miles from my work, and I have used a car to get here exactly 7 times. I cycle to work 3 times a week and cycle/train to work the other 2.
So maybe the hidden side would be if I lived closer to work, I would ride my bike less and be less fit?
Im stretching here.

[WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us '0 which is not a hashcash value.


Yeah, it doesn't say where they were just looking at car commuters in the summary, but the study was only looking at Dallas residents, so I'm pretty sure most people weren't getting to work on the subway.

They lumped commutes longer than 20 miles all together into the extremely long commute category. I didn't realize my 30 mile commute was so far from the norm. Time to get a new job.

Shona Hackmann

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