PHOTO: I-95 congestion

Research suggests a long commute has negative impacts. Here, traffic backs up on Interstate 95 in Stafford, home to about 97,600 commuters.

Commuting is a part of life in the Fredericksburg region.

We all are commuters, of course, but northbound workers with long drives account for a big slice of the commuting pie in these parts.

There are about 72,900 commuters in Stafford County and about 62,900 in Spotsylvania County, according to a recent study by the University of Mary Washington, the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance and the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The impact of those long commutes is obvious on area roads. Drivers seem to grow more aggressive, angry and impatient when the commuter rush is in full swing.

A recent study by real estate company Clever shows the impact long commutes have on those who do it day in and day out. It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s worth it.

“Americans spend 489 million hours driving 14.5 billion miles to and from work each year,” according to the study. Clever conducted this study to better understand how commuters determine where to live.

The study focused on the 80 percent of workers who commute alone, and it turned up plenty of negatives, including poor health (mental and physical) and big financial hits.

“People with longer commutes are less healthy, experience more stress and depression, take more days off work, and are less productive than those who have shorter commutes,” Clever research associate Francesca Ortegren writes about the study findings.

Here’s an eye-opener: The study found that a 20-minute increase in a commute “has the same impact on people’s job satisfaction as a 19 percent pay cut!”

Also, lengthening commutes were shown to increase the number of people with poor or fair health. A one mile increase, for instance, was related to a 1.36 percent increase in the “proportion of the population in poor or fair health.”

Citing past research, Ortegren added that those with commutes longer than a half-hour one way are 33 percent more likely to be depressed, 46 percent more likely to get less than seven hours of sleep each night and 21 percent more likely to be obese than those with shorter commutes.

Commuting also impacts productivity.

Workers whose commutes are longer than one hour lose about seven days of production a year.

There also is a financial cost to commuting.

That lost productivity costs companies $2,660 per worker annually because of unscheduled absences and a total of $156.5 billion a year as a result of tired employees.

Commuting comes with personal losses, too, even for those who earn more by making the long trek to their jobs.

The study found that the U.S. workers spend an average of 46 minutes commuting to and from work, while “nearly a third spend over an hour,” which “translates to over 200 hours spent commuting annually.”

That results in billions in lost wages and opportunities for more personal time, the study found.

Commuters also lose financially when it comes to time, maintenance and gas, to the tune of more than $16 billion annually.

This article has been updated to show the correct number of commuters who live in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.

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Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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