The Curse of Frequent Flyers

Most people in the world believe those who travel regularly to far away places for business live an exotic life. They picture luxury hotel suites, lavish business dinners and time off in some of the world’s most sought after locations. All on the company’s dime.  But in reality, the frequent flyers’ lifestyle can be very grueling. And now a new medical study shows that it can also be unhealthy.

For those of us who spend over 14 nights a month away from home, we run the risk of obesity, alcoholism, depression, sleep deprivation and more. That will come as no surprise to many of us road warriors who have long known there’s a price to be paid for constant travel.

The Study

Andrew Rundle, Tracey Revenson and Michael Friedman conducted a study for Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York by looking at the health records of over 18,000 employees to identify which ones exhibited symptoms of depression, anxiety and alcohol concerns.

The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is one of the first studies on the effects of business travel on non-infectious health.

They found the more nights a person spends away from home, the more they experience poor mental health and behavioral issues. According to one of the authors, “Extensive business travel, 14 or more nights away from home a month, is associated with a cluster of mental health conditions, including poor sleep, greater symptoms of anxiety and depression and a higher likelihood of alcohol dependence.”

What Does This Mean for You?

If you travel a lot it means you should pay attention to the risk factors. It means you should try to notice if you’re becoming depressed or anxious, you should pay attention to you food and alcohol intake and you should try to normalize your sleep patterns as best you can.  Here are a few tips on overcoming jet lag with healthy eating habits.

If you’re a manager or business owner who has employees on the road constantly you should consider offering time off after they return to acclimatize to new time zones, training and mental health counseling.  These health risks are real so if you’re a frequent flyer it makes sense to pay attention and take steps to be healthier and more effective in your approach to global travel.

None of this should blunt your enthusiasm for and love of travel, but we do urge everyone to stay safe out there and be healthy.


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