A new analysis from Columbia University suggests that issues of insomnia, anxiety, and a tendency toward alcohol dependence were common among business travelers who hit the road every month. The study is one of the few to focus on the mental health impacts of travel.
Frequent business travel is known to cause stress for many road warriors, but the nature of the issues created by the practice might even keep you up at night. Literally.
A new report, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine [subscription] and conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York, found that people who travel two weeks or more a month were more likely to report trouble sleeping than the average American. Additionally, those who travel heavily are more likely to be susceptible to unhealthy habits like smoking, staying sedentary, and alcohol dependence.
“Poor behavioral and mental health outcomes significantly increased as the number of nights away from home for business travel rose,” stated a news release on the report, one of the first travel studies focused on health issues not related to infectious diseases.
The report, titled Business Travel and Behavioral and Mental Health, researched the anonymized health records of more than 18,000 workers who took part in their employers’ corporate wellness program, and found that many of them commonly had signs of anxiety and depression, along with other medical issues, and they tend to worsen for those who traveled more heavily.
Lead author, Andrew Rundle, also took part in creating a separate 2011 study that showed frequent travelers were likely to weigh more, have higher cholesterol levels, and higher blood pressure rates.
Rundle said the new findings highlighted a need to focus on deeper health issues beyond simple illness when it comes to travelers.
“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,” Rundle, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, said in a news release.
Rundle suggested that employers should help workers handle the effects of heavy travel by offering access to education, training, and a considerate corporate culture.