Sunday, November 3, 2013

NaBloPoMo Day 3: Walking increases happiness

I've been walking to work for nearly eight years and still feel fortunate to be able to do it. Swapping the morning commute on public transport for a walk along the river contributes to my happiness levels, so I was interested to read this story about urban design and happiness in The Guardian today.

A study by University of Zurich economists, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, found people who walk to work are happier than those who face a one-hour daily commute.   
Their finding was seemingly straightforward: the longer the drive, the less happy people were. Before you dismiss this as numbingly obvious, keep in mind that they were testing not for drive satisfaction, but for life satisfaction. People were choosing commutes that made their entire lives worse. Stutzer and Frey found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.
What's even more surprising is that for single people, "exchanging a long commute for a short walk had the same effect on happiness as finding new love". Wow!

I'm not sure how the results would be compare if they were studying public transport commuters, although another study mentioned in The Guardian story found peak-hour train travellers and car commuters in England both suffered higher stress levels than fighter pilots and riot police facing an angry mob. Jeez.

The article states that people who commuted by bike report feeling more connected to the world in a way that isn't possible when you're in a car, bus or train. I think I've mentioned here before that walking to work gives me a greater sense of connection to my world. A protective parent duck tried to nip me on the ankle a week or so ago when I accidentally walked too close to its three ducklings. That doesn't happen when I travel by tram. 

The only downside of walking to work is that I read much less than when I travelled to work on the train.  I often pass a man walking across Morell Bridge on his way to work while absorbed in his book  - on Friday he only had a few pages left of a very weighty volume. It makes me smile that he can't bear to put his book down, but I'm not keen to emulate him. I'd walk into the path of a bike. 


Andrew said...

Not too many have the luxury of being able to walk to work, and I agree, it must be beneficial to your physical and mental health.

missjane said...

It is good to have you back in my feed; I'm glad some of the chirp is back.

Interesting piece: I think I need a new office.