Systematic review of the association between commuting, subjective wellbeing and mental health

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Commuting as a habitual routine in people's daily lives is possibly related to subjective wellbeing (SWB) and mental health (MH). However, findings on the commuting–SWB–MH interplay are inconclusive, and a systematic synthesis of the available evidence is lacking.

We therefore systematically reviewed the existing literature on the associations between commuting, SWB and MH. We searched seven databases for eligible English-language publications up to 9 February 2020. We summarized the study specifics in accordance with the PRISMA guideline and assessed the quality of the studies.

In total, 45 studies were eligible for inclusion. We found that objective commute characteristics, such as duration and mode, affected experiential aspects of SWB and MH, but also general MH and cognitive wellbeing. External travel circumstances, like crowdedness and weather conditions, had no structural impacts on the experiential indicators of SWB and MH. Travel attitude and personality traits had effects on long-term cognitive wellbeing as well as domain satisfaction and mental state. Adverse effects of commuting negatively spill-over to home and job. Our results also reveal that the accumulation of commute experiences may change both overall wellbeing and MH, where emotional response seems to act as a moderator.

The effects of commuting on MH and the correlations between different dimensions of MH and SWB are as yet unclear. Advances towards intensive longitudinal rather than cross-sectional study designs including ambulatory physiological measurements through global positioning system-enabled wearables seem critical to better understand the causal pathways along which commuting affects both short- and long-term SWB and MH directly and indirectly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-74
Number of pages16
JournalTravel Behaviour and Society
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Cognitive state
  • Commute satisfaction
  • Commuting
  • Emotional wellbeing
  • Systematic review


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