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Is Frequent Business Travel Killing You?

We often look at those who get to jet off to new and exotic locations on a regular basis with envy, even if their travels are for work. For those who don’t have the ability to frequently travel, being able to visit new places and cultures is an absolute luxury.

But, a study recently published in the journal Environment and Planning is shedding light on a dark side of frequent business travel. According to this study, people who engage in frequent travel, which the study refers to as “hypermobility,” may experience adverse psychological, emotional and physical effects.

Jet lag is one of the most common health risks with frequent travel, disrupting your body’s circadian rhythm. It can cause fatigue and gastrointestinal problems and even affect your mood, judgment and ability to concentrate. Jet lag’s interference with the body’s rhythms causes a widespread disruption of many biological processes, potentially increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke and, if chronic, may cause cognitive deficits.

Frequent air travel can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism, expose you to more germs and contribute to dry eyes and dehydrated skin.

Every time you fly, you get zapped by a little extra UV and cosmic radiation from space. It goes right through you, in very small amounts. It s typically nothing you need to worry about, even if you re pregnant. But, flying 85,000 miles a year goes beyond the limit for public exposure to radiation – with exposure to radiation at high altitude hundreds of times higher than at ground level, the risk of cancer becomes higher.

Frequent business travelers tend to have fewer opportunities to exercise, worse eating habits than when they’re at home and occasionally over-consume alcohol, further impacting their health.

Wait, there’s more.

Frequent travel impacts psychological and emotional health. There’s always a level of stress preparing and making arrangements for trips, but when you arrive at your destination for vacation, you relax and unwind. This is often not the case for business travelers – their workload isn’t reduced and they may experience more stress trying to complete tasks during travel.

Flight delays can trigger anxiety and fatigue. And, constantly traveling for business can be disorienting and lonely since so much time is spent away from friends and family. While frequently traveling opens you up to new opportunities to make new connections and friendships, this study found these relationships tend to be situational, expendable and short-lived.

Researchers in this study found the brighter side of hypermobility is the “glamorized” viewpoint others have of the frequent traveler, perceiving them as having a higher social status. And social media only enhances this with the ability (or social obligation) to post photos and check in to exotic locations for everyone to see where you are.

While frequent business travelers’ social media posts glamorize what they’re doing, they also overshadow all of the negative impacts of what they’re doing.

Frequent business travel is becoming more common, meaning these negative effects could begin to impact a broader population, according to researchers.

So what does all of this mean? For frequent business travelers, you may not have a choice about flying for work, but you can work to counteract these negative effects.

First, make a concerted effort to eat healthy, skip alcohol and take advantage of hotel fitness centers during business trips. Make sure you try your best to keep moving instead of sitting for hours upon hours – walk around the airport, walk around the plane, find a space to stretch. That will help with the possibility of developing DVT. When you can, catch up on your sleep to prevent and ward off jet lag. And when you are home, make sure you’re spending plenty of time with your friends and family.


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