Advertisement

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

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Life satisfaction Commuting Non-linear effect Mediation Leisure satisfaction 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Allison, P. D. (2009). Fixed effects regression models. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Argyle, M. (2001). The psychology of happiness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle? Social Science and Medicine, 66(8), 1733–1749.Google Scholar
  4. Brauns, H., Scherer, S., & Steinmann, S. (2003). The CASMIN educational classification in international comparative research. In J. H. P. Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik & C. Wolf (Eds.), Advances in cross-national comparison. An European working book for demographic and socio-economic variables (pp. 196–221). New York: Kluwer and Plenum.Google Scholar
  5. Brüderl, J., & Ludwig, V. (2015). Fixed-effects panel regression. In H. Best & C. Wolf (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of regression analysis and causal inference (pp. 327–358). London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Cummins, R. A. (1996). The domains of life satisfaction: An attempt to order chaos. Social Indicators Research, 38, 303–332.Google Scholar
  7. DeNeve, K. M., & Cooper, H. (1998). The happy personality: A meta-analysis of 137 personality traits and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 197–229.Google Scholar
  8. Dickerson, A., Hole, A. R., & Munford, L. A. (2014). The relationship between well-being and commuting revisited: Does the choice of methodology matter? Regional Science and Urban Economics, 49, 321–329.Google Scholar
  9. Diener, E. (2012). New findings and future directions for subjective well-being research. American Psychologist, 67(8), 590–597.Google Scholar
  10. Diener, E. (2013). The remarkable changes in the science of subjective well-being. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(6), 663–666.Google Scholar
  11. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94–122.Google Scholar
  12. Drobnič, S., Beham, B., & Präg, P. (2010). Good job, good life? Working conditions and quality of life in Europe. Social Indicators Research, 99(2), 205–225.Google Scholar
  13. Evans, G. W., & Wener, R. E. (2006). Rail commuting duration and passenger stress. Health Psychology, 25(3), 408–412.Google Scholar
  14. Evans, G. W., Wener, R. E., & Phillips, D. (2002). The morning rushhour. Predictability and commuter stress. Environment and Behavior, 34(4), 521–530.Google Scholar
  15. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness? The Economic Journal, 114(497), 641–659.Google Scholar
  16. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2014). Economic consequences of mispredicting utility. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(4), 937–956.Google Scholar
  17. Gerlach, K., & Stephan, G. (1992). Pendelzeiten und Entlohnung - eine Untersuchung mit Individualdaten für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Jahrbuch für Sozialökonomie und Statistik, 210(1–2), 18–34.Google Scholar
  18. Gottholmseder, G., Nowotny, K., Pruckner, G. J., & Theurl, E. (2009). Stress perception and commuting. Health Economics, 18(5), 559–576.Google Scholar
  19. Hansson, E., Mattisson, K., Björk, J., Östergren, P.-O., & Jakobsson, K. (2011). Relationship between commuting and health outcomes in a cross-sectional population survey in southern Sweden. BMC Public Health, 11, 834.Google Scholar
  20. Hennessy, D. A., & Wiesenthal, D. L. (1999). Traffic congestion, driver stress, and driver aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 25(6), 409–423.Google Scholar
  21. Hilbrecht, M., Smale, B., & Mock, S. E. (2014). Highway to health? Commute time and well-being among Canadian adults. World Leisure Journal, 56(2), 151–163.Google Scholar
  22. Jain, J., & Lyons, G. (2008). The gift of travel time. Journal of Transport Geography, 16(2), 81–89.Google Scholar
  23. Kageyama, T., Nishikodo, N., Kobayashi, T., Kurokawa, Y., Kenko, T., & Kabuto, M. (1998). Long commuting time, extensive overtime, and sympathodominant state assessed in terms of short-term heart rate variability among male white-collar workers in the Tokyo megalopolis. Industrial Health, 36, 209–217.Google Scholar
  24. Kahneman, D. (1999). Objective happiness. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 3–25). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  25. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method. Science, 306(5702), 1776–1780.Google Scholar
  26. Karlström, A., & Isacsson, G. (2009). Is sick absence related to commuting travel time? Swedish evidence based on the generalized propensity score estimator. Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI). Working paper, 2010:3.Google Scholar
  27. Kluger, A. N. (1998). Commute variability and strain. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 19(2), 147–165.Google Scholar
  28. Koslowsky, M., Kluger, A. N., & Reich, M. (2013). Commuting stress: Causes, effects, and methods of coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Künn-Nelen, A. (2015). Does commuting affect health? IZA discussion papers, no. 9031. Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).Google Scholar
  30. Levinson, D. M. (1998). Accessibility and the journey to work. Journal of Transport Geography, 6(1), 11–21.Google Scholar
  31. Lorenz, O. (2018). Does commuting matter to subjective well-being? Journal of Transport Geography, 66(C), 180–199.Google Scholar
  32. Lyons, G., & Chatterjee, K. (2008). A human perspective on the daily commute: Costs, benefits and trade-offs. Transport Reviews, 28(2), 181–198.Google Scholar
  33. Lyons, G., Jain, J., & Holley, D. (2007). The use of travel time by rail passengers in Great Britain. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 41(1), 107–120.Google Scholar
  34. Lyons, G., & Urry, J. (2005). Travel time use in the information age. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 39(2–3), 257–276.Google Scholar
  35. Lyubomirsky, S. (2001). Why are some people happier than others? The role of cognitive and motivational processes in well-being. American Psychologist, 56(3), 239–249.Google Scholar
  36. Mokhtarian, P. L., & Salomon, I. (2001). How derived is the demand for travel? Some conceptual and measurement considerations. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 35(8), 695–719.Google Scholar
  37. Morris, E. A., & Zhou, Y. (2018). Are long commutes short on benefits? Commute duration and various manifestations of well-being. Travel Behaviour and Society, 11, 101–110.Google Scholar
  38. Myers, D. G. (1999). Close relationships and quality of life. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 374–391). New York, NY, US: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  39. Nie, P., & Sousa-Poza, A. (2015). Commute time and subjective well-being in urban China. Hohenheim discussion papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, No. 09-2015. http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:100-opus-11484. Accessed 1 Mar 2018.
  40. Novaco, R. W., Stokols, D., & Milanesi, L. (1990). Objective and subjective dimensions of travel impedance as determinants of commuting stress. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18(2), 231–257.Google Scholar
  41. Office for National Statistics. (2014). Commuting and personal well-being, 2014. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  42. Olsson, L. E., Gärling, T., Ettema, D., Friman, M., & Fujii, S. (2013). Happiness and satisfaction with work commute. Social Indicators Research, 111(1), 255–263.Google Scholar
  43. Ory, D. T., Mokhtarian, P. L., Redmond, L. S., Salomon, I., Collantes, G. O., & Choo, S. (2004). When is commuting desirable to the individual? Growth and Change, 35(3), 334–359.Google Scholar
  44. Pfaff, S. (2014). Pendelentfernung, Lebenszufriedenheit und Entlohnung: Eine Längsschnittuntersuchung mit den Daten des SOEP von 1998 bis 2009. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 43(2), 113–130.Google Scholar
  45. Roberts, J., Hodgson, R., & Dolan, P. (2011). “It’s driving her mad”. Gender differences in the effects of commuting on psychological health. Journal of Health Economics, 30(5), 1064–1076.Google Scholar
  46. Rouwendal, J. (2004). Search theory and commuting behavior. Growth and Change, 35(3), 391–418.Google Scholar
  47. Schwarz, N., & Strack, F. (1999). Reports of subjective well-being: Judgmental processes and their methodological implications. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 61–84). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  48. Siegrist, J. (1996). Adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 1(1), 27–41.Google Scholar
  49. Sposato, R. G., Röderer, K., & Cervinka, R. (2012). The influence of control and related variables on commuting stress. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 15(5), 581–587.Google Scholar
  50. Statistisches Bundesamt. (2015). Qualität der Arbeit. Geld verdienen und was sonst noch zählt. Wiesbaden.Google Scholar
  51. Stokols, D., Novaco, R. W., Stokols, J., & Campbell, J. (1978). Traffic congestion, type A behavior, and stress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 63(4), 467–480.Google Scholar
  52. Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2007). Commuting and life satisfaction in Germany. Informationen zur Raumentwicklung, 2(3), 179–189.Google Scholar
  53. Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2008). Stress that doesn’t pay. The commuting paradox. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 110(2), 339–366.Google Scholar
  54. Van Ommeren, J., Rietveld, P., & Nijkamp, P. (1997). Commuting: In search of jobs and residences. Journal of Urban Economics, 42(3), 402–421.Google Scholar
  55. Wagner, G. G., Frick, J. R., & Schupp, J. (2007). The German socio-economic panel study (SOEP)—scope, evolution and enhancements. Schmollers Jahrbuch, 127(1), 139–169.Google Scholar
  56. Walsleben, J. A., Norman, R. G., Novak, R. D., O’Malley, E. B., Rapoport, D. M., & Strohl, K. P. (1999). Sleep habits of Long Island rail road commuters. Sleep, 22(6), 728–734.Google Scholar
  57. Wener, R. E., Evans, G. W., Phillips, D., & Nadler, N. (2003). Running for the 7:45: The effects of public transit improvements on commuter stress. Transportation, 30, 203–220.Google Scholar
  58. Wolbring, T., Keuschnigg, M., & Negele, E. (2013). Needs, comparisons, and adaptation: The importance of relative income for life satisfaction. European Sociological Review, 29(1), 86–104.Google Scholar
  59. Zhu, J., & Fan, Y. (2018). Commute happiness in Xi’an, China: Effects of commute mode, duration, and frequency. Travel Behaviour and Society, 11, 43–51.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© 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

Personalised recommendations