Business people who travel for two weeks or more a month are fatter and less healthy, according to a medical study undertaken in the United States.
The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found business people who travelled 20 or more days a month have poorer health on a number of measures compared with those who travel between one to six days a month.
For example, heavy travellers had a mean body mass index of 27.5 compared with 26.1 for light travellers; a mean high density lipoprotein, the good cholesterol, level of 53.3 compared with 56.1; and a mean diastolic pressure of 76.2 compares with 74.6.
It also found that heavy travellers were 260% more likely than non-smokers to rate their health as fair to poor but that may be because employees who have health problems are less likely to travel, the researchers say.
The study also pointed out that 81% of business travel in the US is done in personal automobiles and thus associated with long hours of sitting.
Researchers Andrew Rundle and Catherine Richards of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health used data from medical records of more than 13,000 employees in a corporate wellness programme. Nearly 80% of employees travelled at least one night a month and 1% travelled more than 20 nights a month.
‘As travel goes up, how you feel about your own health goes down,’ said Rundle, an epidemiologist who focuses on physical activity. ‘The people who travel the most, and those who don’t travel at all, tend to have the worst health,’ he added.
The latter part might seem counterintuitive, but Rundle explained that workers who never travel are more likely to have pre-existing medical conditions that keep them at home, which means they’re obviously not healthy.
Rundle said he was inspired to begin studying the subject because he spends a great deal of time on the road and knows the drawbacks of business travel.
Business travellers also tended to consume high calorie and high fat foods at roadside service areas and drive-through that tend to be low on healthy eating options.
‘While the differences in clinical values for diastolic blood pressure and HDL were small, the results for self rated health are of concern because this simple measure is a very robust predictor of mortality. Similarly, the associations between business travel and obesity are noteworthy because of the many negative health consequences of this condition,’ said Richards.