How Business Travel Makes You Unhealthy

Last Updated May 11, 2011 10:49 AM EDT

Here's another reason to give videoconferencing a try: Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have found that people who do a ton of business travel are likely to be a whole lot less healthy than those who only travel a little.

Andrew Rundle and Catherine Richards used the health records of more than 13,000 people in a corporate wellness program to determine the health status of frequent travelers--those who were on the road at least two weeks each month--compared to light travelers, who were away from home only one to six nights a month. If you're a road warrior, you're not going to like the results:

  • Frequent travelers had, on average, a higher body mass index than light travelers (those who were on the road only one to six days a month). So they were more likely to be overweight.
  • Frequent travelers had less "good" cholesterol than light travelers.
  • Frequent travelers had higher blood pressure than light travelers.
  • Frequent travelers were three times more likely to rate their own health as "poor" or "fair" compared to light travelers. This is especially worrisome, since your own assessment of your health is actually a very strong predictor of mortality-much stronger than the 'medical' indicators listed above.
Interestingly, those who didn't travel at all also rated their health as relatively poor. The researchers say that may be because those who know their health is poor are less likely to seek out jobs where travel is required.

The authors say that 81 percent of business travel is done by car, which means travelers are likely to sedentary for long periods of time and may not have healthy food choices readily available.

I'm sure sitting for long hours in your car isn't good for your health, but what about stress? Do you think the stress of constantly being away from home could be affecting the health of frequent travelers?

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Kimberly Weisul is a freelance writer, editor and consultant. Follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/weisul.
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    Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New, the free email newsletter for smart, busy women. She was previously Senior Editor at BusinessWeek, responsible for all coverage of entrepreneurship and for launching BusinessWeek SmallBiz, a bimonthly magazine. She is also a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant.