Congestion takes toll on health

Perth's congestion is getting worse and is now affecting the health and home life of motorists.

A report to be released by the Committee for Perth today has identified national and international research that has linked long commute times with serious long-term health and social issues.

Problems include obesity, heart disease, increased blood pressure, cancer, type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, mental health, sleep apnoea and high divorce rates.

According to car navigation systems maker TomTom's 2013 traffic index, congestion is adding 31 minutes to the daily peak-period commute in Perth.

"Perth is now the second-most congested city in Australia," committee chief executive Marion Fulker said.

"If you live more than an hour away from work, you're spending 19 days travelling to work each year, so it's bound to have an adverse impact on your health." Mrs Fulker said there was evidence of a link between obesity and the number of kilometres travelled in vehicles.

There was also much evidence linking long commutes to a greater risk of depression, as well as reduced life satisfaction and family and relationship problems.


PERTH'S TRAFFIC WOES

LIGHTS KEY TO HOTSPOTS
BUSINESS COUNTS COST
CONGESTION TAX WINS AWARD
CRASH STATS SHOW GRIDLOCK IMPACT
LEFT TURN ON RED POSSIBLE SOLUTION
RAT RUN SAFETY FEARS
PEAK HOUR PAIN

One research project found if one partner commuted for 45 minutes or more, they were 40 per cent more likely to divorce.

Another found a person's sense of happiness and self-worth fell with each successive minute of travel to work.

"But commuting does not have to be bad for your health," Mrs Fulker said.

"Active commuting - where you walk or ride to the bus or train station or walk or ride to work - improves your health significantly.

"In some cases, cyclists and pedestrians can achieve 80 per cent of their recommended daily physical activity by active commuting.

"If we can make local and arterial roads more bike-friendly, the return on this investment would be significant."

The report said just building more roads would not solve Perth's health-related, commuting problems.

Instead, governments should consider other initiatives, including:
• Allowing more people to live closer to work by increasing diverse and affordable housing.
• Having high-quality public transport to major employment and service centres.
• Ensuring public transport keeps pace with population growth.
• Encouraging employers to provide flexible work hours and opportunities to work from home.

The West Australian

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