This week, researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a startling finding: Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40 percent likelier to divorce. The Swedes could not say why. Perhaps long-distance commuters tend to be poorer or less educated, both conditions that make divorce more common. Perhaps long transit times exacerbate corrosive marital inequalities, with one partner overburdened by child care and the other overburdened by work. But perhaps the Swedes are just telling us something we all already know, which is that commuting is bad for you. Awful, in fact.
Commuting is a migraine-inducing life-suck – a mundane task about as pleasurable as assembling flat-pack furniture or getting your license renewed, and you have to do it every day. If you are commuting, you are not spending quality time with your loved ones. You are not exercising, doing challenging work, having sex, petting your dog, or playing with your kids (or your Wii). You are not doing any of the things that make human beings happy. Instead, you are getting nauseous on a bus, jostled on a train, or cut off in traffic.
In the past decade or so, researchers have produced a significant body of research measuring the dreadfulness of a long commute. People with long transit times suffer from disproportionate pain, stress, obesity, and dissatisfaction. The joy of living in a big, exurban house, or that extra income left over from your cheap rent? It is almost certainly not worth it.