The road to happiness? Don’t catch the bus to work

 

It was Margaret Thatcher who is credited with irrevocably damaging the image of bus travel when she reputedly branded anyone over the age of 26 still using one as a “failure”.

New research however suggests that commuting by bus for more than half an hour each way remains the mode of transport likely to leave you anxious and dissatisfied whilst feeling less happy and worthwhile.

According to new data from the Office for National Statistics no form of commuting greatly enhances overall levels of human joy, with those forced to travel to a job claiming to suffer more negative feelings than those who stayed at home.

The study of 60,000 people found that each 10 minute increase in commuting time had a statistically significant impact on wellbeing. Whilst those who travelled for a quarter of an hour or less each way were relatively unscathed, those with a journey time of between 61 and 90 minutes reported feeling worst hit.

The average British commute is around 40-45 minutes – the highest in Europe. Yet when one way trips exceeded 90 minutes the harmful effects virtually disappeared, suggesting that so-called extreme commuters were making the long haul to more satisfying and rewarding jobs.

But the research pointed out that there was a fine balance between the costs of daily travel and the leafy rewards it could offer.

“Given the loss of personal well-being generally associated with commuting, the results suggest that other factors such as higher income or better housing may not fully compensate the individual commuter for the negative effects associated with travelling to work and that people may be making sub-optimal choices,” researchers concluded.

And they found that walking and cycling, long regarded as desirable health-enhancing, stress-busting pursuits, may not be quite such a good way to get about after all. Biking and walking all scored less highly in some areas of wellbeing than travelling by car, van or minibus – with particularly high levels of anxiety reported among those required to travel for more than 30 minutes on foot each way to work. Train travel was also more likely to induce anxiety than going by car.

But it was poor old bus travel that fared worst. “Long bus or coach journeys to work lasting more than 30 minutes were associated with a loss of personal well-being across all four measures,” it found.

Bus transport expert Andrew Braddock said market research revealed that bus passengers reported satisfaction levels of nearly 90 per cent – on a par with customers of premium retailers such as Marks & Spencer.

“The overall market for bus travel is the lower socio-economic group, that is a fact. In many ways we are in contrast to continental Europe and closer to the United States where it is the poorer groups who tend to ride the bus.

“But the better bus companies in the UK now have vehicles that look more like coffee shops, with leather seats and wi-fi as well as on-board information systems so that people know if there is a delay,” he said.

Claire Haigh of campaign group Greener Journeys rejected the suggestion that the private car was less stressful than public transport. “Research in 2010 shows that commuting to work by car is a third more stressful than going by bus. On a bus you might be caught up in delays but you can use your time more productively by reading or doing emails,” she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test