Business travel affects mental health

A business traveller unpacking

A new survey by International SOS and Kingston University suggests that business travel can have a considerable negative impact on mental health.

The survey, which took in 200 international business travellers, found that 45 per cent of respondents reported feeling more stressed than usual while on work trips. Thirty-one per cent said that they experienced emotional exhaustion while travelling on such trips, while around 25 per cent said that they found issues like anxiety and depression were more prevalent, compared with leisure travel.

Additionally, 76 per cent of respondents said that they were less likely to remember to eat in a balanced manner and take exercise while travelling for business, and 73 per cent said that their sleep was of a worse quality than when at home. A significant proportion of respondents also stated that they tended to work much longer hours while travelling.

The survey also included some questions about risky behaviours, and found some similarly concerning results: 46 per cent of respondents said that they were more likely to consume unsafe amounts of alcohol, while 35 per cent said they were more likely to visit a nightclub or bar, 33 per cent said they were more likely to head to an area they knew to be unsafe, and nine per cent said that they would be more likely to embark upon a new sexual relationship. Only two per cent said that they were more likely to have unprotected intercourse or make use of illegal drugs than they would be at home.

“The business opportunities associated with international travel are undisputed, but research suggests that frequent travellers make three times as many claims for psychological treatment compared to those who don’t travel on business regularly,” said International SOS Foundation Director Kai Boschmann. “To safeguard business continuity, as well as fulfilling duty of care obligations, organisations need to better understand how they can protect the mental health and physical wellbeing of their employees while travelling.”

It’s not all bad news, though – 67 per cent of survey respondents reported feeling more engaged with their jobs while travelling for business, and 59 per cent stated that they saw it as an opportunity to enjoy a bit of freedom from their home life (although arguably this could be seen as being somewhat unhealthy).