Too Much Business Travel May Be Bad for Your Mental Health

business travel and health

If you travel for work extensively, you may need to practice better self-care.

A new line of research has been released that suggests traveling too much for work may be bad for your mental health.

Specifically, the study found that people who travel for business two weeks (or more) per month are more likely to struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety as opposed to folks who travel less.

Extensive travelers were also found to be more likely to smoke, less physically active, and have trouble getting a good night’s sleep.

The study has been published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York also discovered that among people who drink alcohol, extensive business-related travel is linked to symptoms of alcohol dependence.

In one of the first studies to assess the impact of business travel and mental health, investigators drew a link between poor mental and behavioral health outcomes and the time spent away from home.

Current estimates published by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation estimate there were over 500 million people who traveled for business in 2016 (U.S.). That’s an increase from 488 million in 2015.

“Although business travel can be seen as a job benefit and can lead to occupational advancement, there is a growing literature showing that extensive business travel is associated with risk of chronic diseases associated with lifestyle factors,” said Dr. Andrew Rundle, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.

“The field of occupational travel medicine needs to expand beyond its current focus on infectious disease, cardiovascular disease risks, violence, and injury to bring more focus to the behavioral and mental health consequences of business travel.”

More: Tips for anxious flyers

The EHE International health exam measured symptoms of depression with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), symptoms of anxiety with the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7), and alcohol dependence with the CAGE scale.

A score above four on the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) was reported by 24 percent of employees, and 15 percent scored above a four on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), indicating that mild or worse anxiety or depressive symptoms were common in this employee population.

Among those who consume alcohol, a CAGE score of two or higher indicates the presence of alcohol dependence and was found in six percent of employees who drank. GAD-7 and PHQ-9 scores and CAGE scores of two or higher increased with increasing nights away from home for business travel.

“At the individual-level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep.

However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel.

Employers should provide employees who travel for business with accommodations that have access to physical activity facilities and healthy food options,” stated Rundle.

The research comes at a time when a December 2017 work related study revealed that a lack of work-life balance can lead to exhaustion.

Source: Eureka Alert/Columbia University

About John D. Moore 178 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a counselor and educator. He writes about men's interest topics, including mental health, self-esteem, science, and research. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Northcentral University and a MBA from Indiana Tech. Click on: BIO to learn more. Be sure to follow Guy Counseling on Twitter