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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK
Average commute 'now 139 hours'
London commuters
Londoners are spending around 225 hours a year commuting
The average commuter spends 139 hours a year travelling to and from work, while the distances they cover are increasing, according to a new report.

The findings have led researchers to warn of the impact travelling such distances to the office could be having on mental and physical health.

The study, by University of the West of England academics, urged commuters to use the time to "re-energise".

Reading the paper, sleeping or day-dreaming had benefits, they said.

Report authors Professor Glenn Lyons and Dr Kiron Chatterjee questioned 2,955 rail commuters and found that one in four considered it wasted time.

However, those that read a newspaper or good book - about half - found their commute to be more worthwhile.

Indulging in the morning's paper, sleeping or day-dreaming can give commuters the chance to experience Eureka moments which might never surface in the busy, hectic office
Prof Lyons

"Indulging in the morning's paper, sleeping or day-dreaming can give commuters the chance to re-energise their mind, chill out or experience Eureka moments which might never surface in the busy, hectic office," said Prof Lyons.

The report found between 1991 and 2001 the percentage of people commuting more than 50km had increased by 30%.

"Over the past 20 years, more and more commuters are experiencing a longer and more demanding commute, with long distance commuters being most commonly found in cities and surrounding areas in London, Liverpool and Manchester," the report said.

"Some British commuters have a journey of at least an hour with those individuals with higher education qualifications spending 50% longer travelling to work that others.

"The average commuter is spending more than 139 hours per year commuting, increasing substantially for Londoners who spend the equivalent of one whole month per year travelling to and from work."

Physical symptoms

It found stress and fatigue were common complaints among commuters.

I currently spend over 600 hours a year commuting by bus
Richard Wilson, Cheltenham

By examining findings from a number of medical studies, it was found that longer car commutes could be linked to high blood pressure, tension, reduced performance in specific tasks and bad moods after the working day has finished.

Physical symptoms were stiff neck, tiredness, lower back pain, difficulty in focusing and anger.

And once a commute exceeded 50 minutes, people were more likely to search for another job.

Long journey times also meant less time to visit doctors, to sleep, exercise, eat healthily and carry out leisure and social activities.

Prof Lyons said the study had given an insight into the "daily ritual" of commuting, which had become an integral part of so many people's lives.

"As well as commenting on the well-known negative impact of the commute upon stress and energy levels, the report also highlights the positive opportunity for commuters to regain this time and make their journey a worthwhile experience," he said.

The report was commissioned by Multibionta Activate.

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