Are you jealous of your friends who seem to swan off to another exotic destination for work every week? Frequent flyers are jetting off 3-4 times a month. What’s not to like?
The reality of this seemingly glamorous lifestyle is quite the opposite. Frequent travellers are at risk of serious health problems. Scott Cohen, deputy director of research of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, has spoken of the ‘…physiological, psychological, emotional and social consequences’ that affect these frequent travellers.
According to research, the more you travel, the faster you age. Researchers have found that certain genes can actually affect how quickly we age. Cohen has stated that “Chronic jet lag…has been linked in studies to disrupting gene expression that influences aging…”.
Increased exposure to radiation
Workers who fly regularly and fly long distances are exposed to greater levels of radiation. “Radiation exposure is hundreds of times higher at high altitude than at ground,” Cohen claims.
These travellers are bound to be exposed to much higher radiation levels than those who do not frequently fly. Flying 85,000 miles per year will mean that you are absorbing radiation levels above the regulatory limit of most countries.
Weaker immune system and tiredness
Cohen reports that “jet lag and tiredness can even switch off genes that are linked to the immune system”. This leaves frequent travellers at a greater risk of picking up other illnesses. “The disruption of the circadian rhythm from jet lag affects mood, judgment, and concentration for up to six days”, Cohen adds.
Frequent travellers would have little time to prepare healthy, nutritious meals, and everybody knows that airline foods aren’t particularly healthy as they are packed with sugar and salt. Frequent flyers also have fewer opportunities to exercise.
This combination of poor diet and lack of exercise increases the risk of becoming overweight as well as other weight-related illnesses. 70% of business travellers declared symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle such as poor diet, lack of exercise and stress according to a Harvard Business Review in 2015.
Frequently travelling for work can obviously be a stressful experience. Workers have to prepare for the trip beforehand and cope with delays en route (weather disruption, long security queues, technical failures).
Frequent business travellers also suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation. Spending nights away from loved ones creates guilt for leaving children or spouses at home. All these things increase stress for the worker and can negatively impact your body, mind and behaviour.
Excessive travelling clearly has detrimental impacts on our health. However, if you only travel on business once or twice every few months, you are far less likely to suffer from the above risks.