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January 12, 2018
Researchers cite health risks of business travel

Anyone who travels frequently for work knows that it can be an unglamorous hassle. But did you know it might also be bad for your health? Researchers from Columbia University and City University of New York found that people who travel for business two weeks or more a month report more symptoms of anxiety and depression than those who travel less. They’re also more likely to smoke, be sedentary, and report trouble sleeping.

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Among those who consume alcohol, extensive business travel is associated with symptoms of alcohol dependence. As well, researchers found that poor behavioral and mental health outcomes increase with the number of nights away from home. The findings were reported online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

According to Columbia professor Andrew Rundle, “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.” He suggests the field of occupational travel medicine needs to expand to address the behavioral and mental health consequences of business travel.

The study was based on health records of more than 18,000 employees who completed a health assessment that looked at depressive systems, anxiety symptoms, and alcohol dependence.

In view of the findings, the researchers encourage employers and employees to consider new approaches to improve employee health during business travel. They say personnel need to take responsibility for their decisions around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep. But employers need to support them with education, a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel, and accommodations that permit access to physical activity and healthy food options.

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