Could business travel be bad for your mental health?

Local travellers record more stress and less sleep during business trips. Picture: Supplied.

Local travellers record more stress and less sleep during business trips. Picture: Supplied.

Published Oct 20, 2019


More than half of local travellers believe business trips do not impact on their health. However, statistics tell a different story. 

Research has found that most business travellers skip exercising, find it hard to sleep and forgo healthy eating, which impacts health and increases stress levels.

During a research survey carried out by an independent research company on behalf of The Westin Cape Town hotel, only 32% of business travellers believed their health was impacted by business travel. Of the respondents, 52% did not believe business travel impacted on their health and 17% were unsure.

The same survey also found that only 18% of travellers said they exercised while on a business trip, with another 40% reporting that they occasionally exercised when they were away.

The overwhelming majority (82%) were sleeping for less than six hours. Of the respondents, 62% slept less than when at home.

The World Sleep Society has found that there is a direct correlation between your sleep and your overall well-being. Sleep is also foundational for people to reap the benefits of exercise and is essential in recovery after exercise.

According to the research, business trips generally seem to exacerbate feelings of stress for most travellers. During the survey, 67% of respondents stated that business travel did definitely or sometimes impact on their stress levels.

A significant increase in stress has been found to impact negatively on both physical and mental health. Stress affects the health of one’s heart, immune system, metabolism and hormones and has also been linked to depression and anxiety.

The local survey findings are in line with international studies. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published research showing international business travellers had higher illness rates than leisure travellers, and a Harvard Business Review report found a correlation between frequent travel and many health risks, such as obesity, anxiety.

But despite the health impacts, local travellers stated there is still a joy to be found in business trips, 79% of respondents reported enjoying travelling for business.

Leon Meyer, General Manager at The Westin Cape Town, emphasised the importance to highlight the effect stressful business travel during Mental Health Awareness Month.

"The Westin has created an assortment of facilities and programmes to ensure that wellness remains at the heart of every guest experience, enabling them to rise refreshed and ready to tackle their business goals,” he said. 

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