Business travelers often complain about the exhausting and stressful rigors of being on the road (or in the air) for much of their working lives. Now a study confirms that frequent business travel leads to increased health risks.
Researchers at Columbia University reviewed data on 13,000 people who were part of a corporate wellness program. About 80% of them traveled at least one night per month and 1% traveled more than 20 nights per month.
The study showed that people who didn’t travel at all for business were less healthy compared with others. That could reflect the fact that people who have health problems are less likely to have jobs that require travel, the authors said.
But among the people who traveled, health risks increased corresponding to the amount of time spent traveling. Extensive travelers were 260% more likely than light travelers to rate their health as fair to poor. Obesity was 92% more common in the extensive travelers. They also had higher cholesterol and high blood pressure.
It’s not hard to see how frequent travel can erode a person’s health, the authors said. Poor sleep patterns, unhealthy diets and long periods of inactivity all contribute. The stress of appointments, tight travel schedules and other job demands on the road are also linked to health problems.
Workers who hit the road a lot should be encouraged to monitor their health more closely, the authors advised. Employers can book their employees in hotels that have gyms or offer heart-health foods.
“Employee education programs on the association between business travel and health and on strategies to improve diet and activity while traveling are a simple start,” they wrote.
The study is published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.