Killer driving habits

Learn about the effects of commuting in a personal vehicle on our physical and mental well-being.

Uphill both ways

There are well over 15 million Canadians who commute to work. Three-quarters of commuters drive a personal vehicle. While the average daily commute time is 50 minutes, it can easily extend to over an hour in some areas, including Toronto. That means 200-250 hours per year are spent commuting. Many of us know that there are better ways to spend the time, but the total impact on our health can be surprising.

A number of studies show correlations between average duration of commutes and increases in blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Other physical complications include reduced sleep quality, declining cardiovascular health and spine and neck pain from compromised posture. The impacts go beyond the physical, and put pressure on us mentally. With increased irritability and anxiety, the mental manifestations from commuting can even be correlated with depression and higher divorce rates.

These findings are only correlations; causation may be difficult to prove considering the number of factors involved with everyday life. However, we can contrast the driving scenario with an alternative commuting method: walking. It would be difficult to dispute that the walk would be the healthiest choice, both physically and mentally. Walking may not be an option for many commuters; however, there are other alternatives – such as cycling, public transit or even car-pooling ­– which can take the edge off daily commuting, and have other positive impacts including increased social interactions.

Check your blind spot before merging

This blog series provides a negative slant toward the prospect of buying and using a personal vehicle. Part 1, Driving into Debt says cars cost more than you think, and this blog says driving every day is literally shortening our lives. So, the takeaway is not to buy a car—right? Well, not exactly. 

This series considers one aspect of every day life—specifically, the strong preference for individual transportation—and breaks it into its component pieces, asking you to consider more aspects than what is initially evident, and then to make a decision based on the most complete information available.

The current balances of our retirement savings accounts and ever-growing debt levels suggest Canadians may not be thinking long-term.

Health and wellness implications of driving can affect one’s lifestyle choices depending on how priorities are set. The lifestyle decision is one factor to review in a vehicle purchase. The true financial cost of the vehicle is another.

Unless all factors of importance are considered, the decision is simply being made on autopilot. While that can work in some situations, conscious decisions that take a more holistic long-term perspective will often be more favourable in the long run.

Keep the conversation going

What suggestions do you have for how we can motivate ourselves, and those around us, to take a long-term perspective on decisions that impact our financial and physical health? Post a comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Jennifer Schurer, CPA, CMA

Jennifer leads and facilitates workshops on financial literacy as part of the CPA Financial Literacy program. Her passion lies in educating youth about money, including credit cards, mortgages, budgeting and goal setting. She also has an interest in providing education to general audiences on best practices for saving and spending.