Has anybody missed the news about global warming, perilous levels of CO2 emissions, poor air quality and the increasing numbers of accidents on our overly congested roads? The news is difficult to ignore, and it should be, because something needs to be done – now!
The health of our planet and the direct effect it has on our own health and wellbeing should be paramount in everybody’s mind.
Of all the things that might obsess us our health and wellbeing deserve to be at the top of that list. We should maintain a healthy diet. We should exercise regularly. We should strive to maintain a healthy work / life balance. Heck, we should probably even detox from time to time.
And yet for some reason we seem to have no problem doing something every single weekday that is clearly associated with obesity, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, rage and general unhappiness.
That activity is commuting by car especially commuting alone by car.
Is it surprising to find that as commute times have increased the effect on people’s rates of well-being, stress and overall satisfaction with life are more dramatically affected, especially if you do it alone?
In 2006, the economists Daniel Kahneman and Alan Krueger carried out detailed research (here) on the amount of time people spent doing a variety of daily activities and how happy, warm, friendly, sad, stressed or anxious they felt when they were doing them.
At the top (happy end) of the table there are no surprises; intimate relations, socialising and relaxing. At the bottom (sad end); the evening commute, working and then right at the bottom, the morning commute.
Interestingly, though, when people’s commutes involved any sort of social contact – whether carpooling or chatting on the train – it shot up to the middle of the rankings, with ratings similar to napping, watching TV, or talking on the phone.
The benefits that carpooling would have on easing congestion, lowering CO2 emissions, saving time and money along with the planet are well understood and easily measured.
Now we can add happiness into the equation and that’s even before we measure the joy that carpool karaoke brings with it.