2014 volume 46(6) pages 1496 – 1516

Cite as:
Sandow E, Westerlund O, Lindgren U, 2014, "Is your commute killing you? On the mortality risks of long-distance commuting" Environment and Planning A 46(6) 1496 – 1516

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Is your commute killing you? On the mortality risks of long-distance commuting

Erika Sandow, Olle Westerlund, Urban Lindgren

Abstract. There is a general belief that expanding labour-market regions, triggered by increased commuting, have positive economic effects on individuals, firms, and society. Recently, however, scholars have reported possible negative outcomes related to health and well-being. Based on these findings, this study addresses the association between long-distance commuting, and mortality. Using longitudinal individual data from between 1985 and 2008, focusing on 55-year-olds in 1994, we model mortality through propensity score matching and Kaplan–Meyer estimates of survival among long-distance commuters and matched controls from the population travelling short distances to work. The results indicate that women who have experienced long-distance commuting face a significantly higher mortality risk compared with women with short commutes to work. This seems to be driven by variations in income and education: for example, for women with long-distance commuting experience, substantially lower survival rates are found among those with low education and low income. A very different picture emerges for men, for whom mortality risks do not seem to be associated with long-distance commuting. Our findings suggest that men and women are subject to different mechanisms regarding the nexus between commuting and mortality.
Keywords: long-distance commuting, health, mortality, propensity score matching, survival rates

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