“To be able to commute to work can be a positive thing because it means you don’t have to uproot your family with every career move but it can also be a strain on your relationship,” said author Erika Sandow to The Local.
According to the study, 11 percent of Swedes have a journey to work that consists of a 45-minute commute or longer. Many commuters have small children and are in a relationship. Most are men.
“One of the long-term risks with commuting is that it can sustain gender-based stereotypes both at home and in the labour market,” Sandow said.
In families where the man commutes, the woman is often forced to take a less qualified job closer to home, which means both less money as well as a larger share of the the responsibility for kids and household.
Although women commuters also experience an increase in salary and career prospects, earlier studies have shown that they experience more stress and feel less successful career-wise than commuting men.
The risk of divorce goes up by 40 percent for commuters and the risk is the highest in the first few years of commuting.
According to the study, most people that start commuting to work continue doing so and more than half that travel a long distance to work today have done so for more than five years.
Five years also seems to be a wathershed because according to the study, most commuters and their families have managed to adapt to the situation by then.
But Sandow adds that they don’t know for certain why that is.
“There could be another selection process at work there as well, that the ‘weaker’ relationships can’t take that kind of strain in the first place,” she said.
Growing labour market regions may be good for growth but Sandow thinks that it is a pity that the social costs of commuting aren’t brought up more in the debate.
“We don’t know today what the increase in commuting will mean to society in the long run and it is important to look at the social costs involved as well,” Sandow said.
And more Swedes are travelling farther distances to work.
“The trend is definitely pointing upward. Both the journey to work and the working hours are getting longer, “ Sandow told The Local.
The study was based on statistical data from two million Swedish households between 1995 and 2000.