MOOD DURING COMMUTE IN THE NETHERLANDS: What way of travel feels best for what kind of people?
Sascha Lancée, Ruut Veenhoven and Martijn Burger, Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization, EHERO
Accepted for publication in Transportation Research Part A, 2017, 104: 195-208 DOI: 10.1016/j.tra.2017.04.025
How happy we are depends partly on how we live our life and part of our way of life is the commute between home and work. In this context we are faced with the question of how much time spent on commuting is optimal happiness wise, and what means of transportation. Since our personal experience is limited, it is helpful to draw on the experience of other people, of people like us in particular.
Several cross-sectional studies have found lower subjective wellbeing among long-distance commuters and among users of public transportation. Yet these differences could be due to selection effects, such as unhappy people ending up more often in distant jobs without having a car. Still another limitation is that earlier research has focused on the average effect of commuting, rather than specifying what is optimal for whom.
Data of the Dutch ‘GeluksWijzer’ (Happiness Indicator) study were analyzed, in the context of which 5000 participants recorded both what they had done in the previous day and how happy they had felt during these activities. This data allows comparison between how the same person feels at home and during their commute. The number of participants is large enough to allow a split-up between different kinds of people, in particular among the many well-educated women who participated in this study.
People feel typically less well when commuting than at home, and this negative difference is largest when commuting using public transportation and smallest when commuting by bike. It is not per se the commuting time that depresses mood, but specific combinations of commuting time and commuting mode. Increasing commuting times can even lead to an uplift of mood when the commute is by bike or foot.
Split-up by different kinds of people shows considerable differences, especially with regard to the different modes and company when travelling. Optimal ways of commuting for different kinds of people are presented in a summary table, from which individuals can read what will fit them best. The differences illustrate that research focusing on averages will not help individuals to make a more informed choice with respect to commuting mode.
Keywords: commuting, experience utility, happiness, mood, informed choice, DRM