Commuting, Strain, and Wellbeing: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

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Description: Commuting is a nearly ubiquitous part of contemporary employment. Commuting to and from work has often been framed as a stressor, with potential implications for employee strain and wellbeing. Over the past several decades, empirical research on commuting, strain, and wellbeing has accumulated across various disciplines; however, a systematic integration of this literature is needed to guide future research and practice, especially in the organizational sciences. Drawing from formative theoretical work in the commuting (e.g., Koslowski et al., 1995; Koslowsky, Kluger et al., 1995; Novaco et al., 1979) and stress appraisal literature (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), we present a systematic review and meta-analysis that synthesizes the literature on commuting as a stressor (i.e., objective and subjective commuting impedance) and its effects on various strain and wellbeing outcomes. We first outline the results of our systematic qualitative review (i.e., based on k = 113 studies) by discussing the negative (i.e., strain) and positive (i.e., wellbeing) implications of commuting indicated by the valence of relationships found in our review. Then, we present the results of a quantitative meta-analysis (i.e., based on 201 effect sizes, derived from k = 37 studies, representing n = 77,443 workers), which suggest that commuting impedance (i.e., time spent commuting) is positively associated with strain outcomes (rxy= .081), and especially perceived stress (rxy = .142), but unrelated to wellbeing outcomes. However, there is a great deal of heterogeneity present in these estimates, reflecting the varied nature of this literature. We conclude by outlining implications for future research on commuting, strain, and wellbeing, including highlighting methodological challenges, and recommendations for practice.


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