People who travel frequently have health risks

Washington: A study has found that people who travel frequently for business increase the rates of poor health and health risk factors, including obesity and high blood pressure.

Catherine A. Richards, MPH, and Andrew G. Rundle, DrPH, of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University compared health risks for employees at different levels of business travel.

They used data on more than 13,000 employees from a corporate wellness program. Close to 80 percent of the employees travelled at least one night per month. Nearly one percent were “extensive travellers”—on the road more than 20 nights per month.

Employees who did not travel at all were actually a less-healthy group. Compared to light travellers (one to six nights per month), non-travellers were about 60 percent more likely to rate their health as fair to poor.

This may reflect a “healthy worker effect”, with employees who have health problems being less likely to travel.
Otherwise, rates of less-than-good health increased along with nights of travel. Extensive travellers were 260 percent more likely to rate their health as fair to poor, compared to light travellers.

Other health risk factors showed similar patterns: obesity was 33 percent more likely non-travellers and 92 percent more likely for extensive travellers.

The same two groups were also more likely to have high blood pressure and unfavourable cholesterol levels.

Although business travel is often equated with long airline flights, relatively short business trips in personal cars are much more common.

Several factors could contribute to health risks in frequent business travellers—for example, poor sleep, fattening foods, and long periods of inactivity.