By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TVBy Kate Merrill

BOSTON (CBS) – Gas, tolls, and train tickets are not the only costs of our commute. All those miles and minutes could be affecting our health.

Whether it is in the car or on the train, many commuters spend an hour or more a day getting to and from work. Health psychologist Dr. Greg Petersen says all that time spent commuting can lead to mental health issues down the road. He says, “commutes tend to make people focus on things that have them feeling kind of helpless and out of control.” And that leads to stress.

Long-term stress can lead to heart disease, diabetes, headaches, and digestive problems. “Emotionally we’re going to be depleted and therefore more vulnerable to increased irritability depression anxiety as well,” says Dr. Petersen.

Another big issue with commuting: pollution. Whether it’s those big trucks on the road or all those the exhaust pipes.

“Those exposures were also associated with a faster rate of decline,” says Dr. Jennifer Weuve. Dr. Weuve studied 19,000 older women and found a link between long term exposure to air pollutants and faster cognitive decline. Other studies have found an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and stroke.

Most of us can’t change our commute, but we can change some habits to keep stress levels down. Exercise will help to counter all that sitting in the car or on the train. Keep healthy snacks handy. Hunger can lead to even more frustration. Music can boost your mood so pack your iPod. And then there’s carpooling. This can cut down on costs and you’ll have someone to talk to for that long ride home.

Kate Merrill


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