What Constant Business Travel Does to Your Health

Business travel exposes people to health risks, such as deep vein thrombosis during air travel. Also, the lifestyle of a frequent business traveler involves components such as being more sedentary, having more stress and an unhealthy diet. This study examined records of people enrolled in a corporate wellness plan. It found that those who traveled less than a week per month had a better health profile than people who did not travel. But this effect was not observed in people who traveled for more two or three weeks per month.

Business life in America requires extensive work-related travel. For example, during 2001-2002, Americans took 405 million long-distance business trips. About 81 percent of these trips were by car. Thus, business travel is an important lifestyle component for many people. There are many health-related effects of constant traveling. Increased incidence of obesity, high alcohol consumption and psychological effects like decreased flexibility and lowering of confidence are reported by frequent business travelers. There have been no studies examining the association between business travel, chronic health conditions and risk factors but some surveys showed lower self-reported incidence of hypertension .This study attempted to find the link between personal perception of health status and business travel.

* Data from 13,057 persons enrolled in a corporate wellness plan were used. This wellness plan used extensive information gathered from answers provided by the participants to the questioner.
* The patients self-reported status of health by rating it excellent, good, fair, or poor. They also provided answers pertaining to the number of nights they were away from home, on business, in a month.
* Blood pressure measurements, blood glucose and lipid levels were obtained during visits to physicians.
* The association between these parameters and frequency of travel was found by statistical analysis.

* 2,804 were non travelers while 10,263 were business travelers.
* Of non-travelers, 90.3 percent self-reported that their health was either good or excellent, while 94.0 percent of travelers self reported the same.
* The chances of reporting fair or poor self-rated health were significantly higher among non-travelers than those traveling one to six nights per month. As the number of nights of travel increased from six per month to 14 or 21, the chances of poor health reporting increased.
* The possibility of being obese was significantly higher among non-travelers than among those traveling one to six nights per month. As the number of nights of travel increased from six per month to 14 or 21 per month, the chances of being obese increased.
* Business travelers were more likely to be male and younger than their non-traveling peers

Next steps/Shortcomings
The analysis conducted in this research is based on self-reporting by participants. Also, the data is obtained from physical examinations conducted by a single employee wellness provider. So the findings might not be universal. For example, prevalence of obesity in the study population was just 18.5 percent but the national prevalence was 33.8 percent in 2007-2008.

This study showed that there is a “U” shaped relationship between self-reported health, health risk factors and business travel. Employed persons seem to be healthier than their non-employed peers and had reduced mortality too. This “healthy worker” effect may be a reason for the finding that people who do not travel report poor health, are likely to be more obese and likely to have higher diastolic blood pressure than people who travel up to six nights in a month for business. However, this positive relation between health and business travel is not observed in the case of people who travel for more than two weeks per month. They are more likely to have poor health. A possible combination of job stress, long time spent in sedentary activity during travel and diet may be contributing to this phenomenon.

For More Information:
Business Travel and Self-rated Health, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors
Publication Journal: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, April 11
By Catherine A. Richards; Andrew G. Rundle; Columbia University, New York, New York
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.



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