By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Commuting can be one of the most annoying aspects of today’s work world. Endless traffic can send stress levels soaring. Research has found the psychological impact of commuting affects men and women in very different ways.

Heather Martin puts in a lot of work before work, as she gets her two elementary school aged children ready for school. After getting her boys fed and checks their homework, Martin has to prepare for a 50 minute commute from her home in Franklin to her office in Newton where she is the COO of a human service agency.

Dealing with the unknowns of traffic and being unable to control it adds a lot stress to Martin’s day. “One day there is no traffic, and the next day there’s a ton of traffic, and I am a half hour later than I was the day before.”

Dr. Danny Mendoza, chief of psychiatric services at Beth Israel Deaconess in Plymouth, believes the stress of commuting weighs more heavily on women. “It is more complicated because they settle into the role of multi-tasking constantly.”

Some British researchers examined the different ways men and women are impacted by traffic related stress. Their report is called: “It’s driving her mad: Gender differences in the effects of commuting on psychological health”.

Dr. Mendoza agreed with their findings about how women are impacted. “The day never ends. They get into their car and they are commuting to their next job which is home. At the same time, in the car they are thinking about their kids. They are thinking about their spouses.”

The study found the psychological impact was felt greatest by working moms with pre-school children. Their stress levels from commuting were four times greater than those of the dads.

Martin told us she sees a difference in the way she and her husband handle commuting and their daily household tasks. “I am constantly thinking of the next thing, and I don’t know, my husband is just in the moment. It’s a totally different perspective.”

Winter Wyman human resource executive Michelle Roccia said, “Women juggle a lot. We have the expectation of, ‘can I do it all?” Roccia believes women often burden themselves with additional stress. “I would love to know men’s secret on how they compartmentalize things, so that it is less stressful, but I just think it’s in our DNA.”

A tough commute can make it hard to keep things in perspective. “If you really use those strategies to say, I can’t control what is out here. I can only control what is in here, and try to shorten that list as much as you can,” said Roccia.

More companies are allowing flexible hours and the ability to work at home, which can be a big help according to Roccia.

Dr. Mallika Marshall


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