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Long Commutes Tough on Couples' Relationships

WEDNESDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- In a tough economy, many people find themselves taking a job that requires a long commute, but new research suggests that there may be a high personal price to pay for that decision.

In fact, a researcher from Sweden found that those who travel long distances to work are more likely to separate from their spouse or partner than those who work closer to home.

Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University, mapped long-distance commuting in Sweden and examined its effects on income and relationships. In analyzing more than 2 million adults who were married or living with a significant other, Sandow found that those who commute long distances do, in fact, gain access to more jobs and better career opportunities, but not without sacrifice on the home front.

Among her findings, Sandow pointed out that 11 percent of those studied spent at least 90 minutes traveling each day (round-trip). The results also revealed that a large percentage of long-distance commuters have small children and their families are rooted in their community. However, once they begin the routine of a long commute, most stick with it. In fact, more than half of those who commuted long-distance to work had been doing so for at least five years, she reported.

Although people do adapt to this type of travel over time, many relationships do not survive this long haul. Sandow's research found that long-distance commuters are 40 percent more likely to separate than other couples, particularly in the first years of the extended travel time.

Gender also comes into play, said Sandow. Most long-distance commuters are men, and their partners tend to earn less money, Sandow noted, adding that women often work part-time or take less qualified jobs closer to home in order to be able to pick up children at day care. As a result, many women are earning less and still having to take on the primary role as caretaker for the family and children, she found.

Although women who commuted also tended to have more opportunities and higher pay than those who didn't, earlier studies have shown they are more likely to feel stressed, pressured for time and less successful in their job compared with male commuters, Sandow noted in a university news release.

The findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more detailed information on marriage and divorce.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Umea University, news release, May 25, 2011

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