Business Travel and Health

Travel is a prominent feature of business in the United States. Millions of long distance trips are taken each year. Approximately 75% of these trips were shorter than 250 miles from the point of departure, whereas only 7% of trips were more than 1,000 miles. (Bureau of Transportation Statistics). Air travel accounted for 16% of all business trips, whereas personal automobile travel accounted for 81% of all business trips. Obviously, long distance traveling is associated with blood clot development in the legs and lungs, but does short distance traveling increase health related claims?

A large study (over 13,000 patients) was done to evaluate this question (JOEM, volume 53, number 4, April 2011). The results were interesting in that business travelers were more likely to have jet lag, sleep disorders, exposure to high-density “fast” foods, and long periods of sedentary behavior then non-travelers. These factors have been found to be associated with obesity, which is known to cause numerous poor health conditions. Also, business travel was associated with a lower risk of self-reported hypertension, higher alcohol consumption, lower confidence in keeping up with the pace of work, and lower perceived flexibility in fulfilling commitments.

This combination helps drive a significantly higher rate of health claims when compared to their non-traveling peers for all conditions considered, including chronic diseases such as asthma and back disorders. Interestingly, the highest increase in health related claims was for psychological disorders, and particularly, the subcategory of stress-related disorders.

It appears that business travel may have detrimental health consequences because it increases job strain as well as increasing risk factors for the development of chronic health conditions. As an employer, encouraging a healthy lifestyle is important for the health of your employee. Also, allow the traveler to have more control and flexibility in their schedule. Try to identify other ways to decrease job strain. The employee will be more satisfied with their job and healthier.

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