Commuting and Happiness in the United States
Two studies in Sweden and the United States both came to the same conclusion: People who bike or walk to work are happier. If you want to make commutes less miserable, active commutes involving biking or walking is the way to go.
In a study in Portland, OR, researchers found that individuals who biked to work were significantly happier than those who drove or took public transportation.
They found that those who took public transportion were slightly happier than those who drove, but the difference was insigificant.
Commuting and Happiness in the Sweden
A similar study in 3 Swedish cities came to a very similar result. Despite having a different climate, culture, and being on a different continent, individuals in Sweden similarly reporting being happier if they biked to work than if they drove or took public transportation.
Researchers found that driving to work was slightly better than taking public transportation , but the difference was small and insignificant.
Correlation does not imply causation
Time Spent Commuting & Happiness
When researchers looked at the time spent commuting, they found that not surprisingly, most people got unhappier as their commutes got longer.
For commutes under 20 minutes, the difference between different forms of transportation was small and insigificant.
However, for longer commutes, happiness began to diverge. Long commutes spent driving or on public transportation tended correlated with less happiness.
The one exception was cycling. Portlanders who biked to work were happy no matter how long their commutes were.
A similar relationship was found in Sweden. Longer commutes were unsurprisngly associated with less satisfaction. However, unlike the Portand study, they did not break this down by biking vs driving.
Research across multiple countries have confirmed, if you want a happier commute and a more satisfying work experience, try walking or biking!
An even larger study of 17,985 British commuters (link below) came to a similar conclusion: those who cycled or walked to work were happier than those who drove. Additionally, the more someone walked in their commutes, the happier they were.
Our main observation of a positive association between active commuting and wellbeing was supported by four distinct groups of analyses...Furthermore, the commuting time analyses showed a positive relationship between time spent walking and wellbeing which, together with the observed increased effect sizes as participants with shorter commutes were progressively excluded from the first group of analyses, indicate a dose–response relationship.
Martin et al
Related: Walking and Creativity
Walking to work may help with creativity. Did you know that a Stanford study found that walking stimulates the generation of new ideas? Walking outside provided even more new ideas than walking inside.
Related: Green Space and Health
If you do decide to try walking or biking to work, try taking a scenic route around some forests or some parks!
Did you know that forests correlate with better health and lower health spending? Several studies have shown clear benefits to being around or living near a forest. Just a few trees outside a hospital room window improves surgical recovery.