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How Business Travel Can Make You Seriously Sick

August 19, 2015

Traveling with suitcase
Photo by Ciesielski

Elizabeth Anderson, The Daily Telegraph, August 19, 2015

Work-related travel is desired by many people, but comes at a price - and some people never recover from its effects. 

People who travel frequently for work are often the subject of envy among peers and family. However, desk-bound colleagues may ultimately have the last laugh.

Academics have warned there is “a darker side of hypermobility”, which means frequent flyers are at risk from serious physiological, psychological, emotional and social damage.

The study, by researchers at the University of Surrey and Linnaeus University in Sweden, said work trips abroad are still associated with "glamour", but there is an ominous silence "with regard to the darker side".

The most obvious consequence is jetlag, which affects sleep times and gastro-intestinal patterns. The condition is caused as the brain struggles to adjust to a new time zone, and affects mood, judgement and the ability to concentrate.

Many report feeling the effects even six days after flying, although the researchers say it can take up to 11 days for the body to return to its usual rhythm following a transmeridian flight.

Jetlag can also switch off genes that are linked to the immune system, thereby raising the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Long-term chronic jetlag among airline cabin crew is associated with memory impairment.

As with occasional flyers, frequent travellers are at risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis and subtle discomforts such as dry eyes and dehydrated skin.

But the disruption caused by travelling has wider consequences for business travellers. They have fewer opportunities for physical exercise, worse eating habits than when at home and in some cases steer towards over-consumption of alcohol, said the study.

To make matters worse, business travellers are increasingly forced to travel in economy class, exacerbating physical and mental fatigue and the overall severity of "creeping tiredness", which may turn chronic.

Jetlag and travel stress not only impact travellers physiologically, but also psychologically and emotionally. A feeling of disorientation can occur even before the flight takes off, through the stress of anticipating, organising and preparing for a trip.

Arriving to acutely felt differences in temperature, humidity, altitude or pollution, as well as different smells, sounds and tastes, can also contribute to a sense of confusion and uncertainty. The affront on the senses may be overwhelming, even resulting in "overload shock", the study said.

The researchers added that loneliness and isolation are also common symptoms of frequent travel. Although travel opens opportunities to meet new people, numerous studies suggest that friendships and romantic relationships forged in a new area tend to be situational, expendable and short-lived.

For those leaving behind a spouse and children, isolation is felt more keenly, along with acute feelings of guilt at leaving loved ones at home. The partner left at home can feel resentful, affecting family relationships.

The study points out that frequent travel, most commonly for business, remains confined to a small proportion of the population. In France, for example, just 5pc of the population accounts for as much as 50pc of all international journeys.

"The costs of hypermobility can be substantial, with significant consequences for those travelling, their families and their communities. Further research should quantify the public health costs associated with [frequent travel]," the authors write.

The research was published in the journal Environment and Planning A.

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This article was written by Elizabeth Anderson from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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