Commuting and Life Satisfaction Revisited: Evidence on a Non-linear Relationship

  • Julia IngenfeldEmail author
  • Tobias Wolbring
  • Herbert Bless
Research Paper


Prior research has documented linear detrimental effects of commuting on individuals’ life satisfaction: the longer individuals’ daily commute, the less satisfied they are with their life. An inspection of the available longitudinal evidence suggests that this conclusion is almost exclusively based on a continuous operationalization of commuting time and distance with a focus on a linear relationship. In contrast, cross-sectional evidence indicates preliminary evidence for non-linear effects and suggests that negative effects of commuting are particularly likely when commuting exceeds a certain threshold of time or distance. Relying on nationally representative data for Germany, the present study applies longitudinal modelling comparing estimates from a continuous and a categorical operationalization. Results clearly indicate a non-linear association and show that negative effects of commuting are almost completely due to individuals who commute more than 80 km (50 miles) daily per way. These findings are in conflict with prior research (partly resting on the same data) proposing a linear relationship. Further analyses suggest that satisfaction with leisure time is a significant mediator of the observed non-linear effect. Results are discussed in light of prior theorizing on the consequences of commuting.


Life satisfaction Commuting Non-linear effect Mediation Leisure satisfaction 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of Erlangen-NürnbergNürnbergGermany
  3. 3.University of MannheimMannheimGermany

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