Commuting Demands & Appraisals: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Strain and Wellbeing Outcomes

Commuting Demands & Appraisals

Commuting, the act of traveling some distance to work, is a nearly ubiquitous phenomenon that can serve as a source of stress for employees. Consistent with the model of commuting stress proposed by Koslowsky, Kluger, & Reich (1995) and transactional stress theory (Lazarus & Folkman, 1987; see Figure 1), we are conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of the commuting literature, with a particular focus the relationships between objective commuting demands (i.e., time spent commuting, distance traveled), subjective commuting appraisals (i.e., perceived impedance) and strain- and wellbeing-related outcomes (e.g., perceived stress, subjective health, physiological symptoms, subjective well being) and moderators of these relationship (e.g., commute modality; coping strategies).

Abstract

Commuting has been framed as a demand with potential implications for employee strain and wellbeing. Research on commuting demands has accumulated across various disciplines; however, this has led to a narrow research scope with wide methodological variability. A systematic integration of this literature is needed to better understand the breadth of the commuting experience, extend the research scope to positive aspects of commuting, interpret heterogeneous findings, and guide future research and practice. Drawing from the transactional stress model, we propose that commuting is an objective demand that can have both negative and positive effects on outcomes through unfavorable and favorable subjective commuting appraisals, respectively. We present a broad systematic review (i.e., based on 109 studies) and a more focused supporting meta-analysis (i.e., based on 39 studies) of commuting demands and appraisals and their relationships with various strain and wellbeing outcomes. Our systematic review finds partial support for our hypotheses concerning the relationships between objective commuting demands, subjective commuting appraisals, and strain and wellbeing outcomes. The results of our meta-analysis suggest that objective commuting demands (i.e., time spent commuting) are positively associated with strain outcomes (r = .081), and especially perceived stress (r = .142), but unrelated to wellbeing outcomes. Subjective commuting appraisals are unrelated to strain and wellbeing outcomes. Across these analyses, there is a great deal of heterogeneity present in the estimates, reflecting the varied nature of the commuting literature. We conclude by outlining implications for future research, including recommendations for methodological improvements and practice.

Seeking Unpublished Data

We are currently seeking unpublished data (i.e., correlations, means, sample sizes, and reliability estimates) between commuting variables (i.e., time and/or distance; subjective impedance) and relevant strain outcomes.

If you have conducted a study on commuting (i.e., time and/or distance) stress and strain outcomes that you think meets these criteria, please email Cort W. Rudolph, Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University (cort.rudolph@health.slu.edu).

References:

Koslowsky, M., Kluger, A. N., & Reich, M. (1995). Commuting Stress: Causes. Effects, and Methods of Coping. Plenum Press.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. Stress and Coping. Springer

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Cort W. Rudolph
Associate Professor of Industrial & Organizational Psychology