Traffic Jam: How It Causes Stress, Anxiety and Type 2 Diabetes


Seething with frustration because you are stuck in a traffic jam? You are not alone!  India is placed eighth in a list of nations with the worst traffic congestions. The average Indian spends at least 90 minutes a day commuting in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bengaluru. These cities lose nearly 22 billion dollars per year due to traffic congestion. These costs include fuel used, loss of productivity, pollution, accidents, and health adversities. Traffic jams are not just a cause of frustration and delays; they can also impact your health negatively.

Traffic Jam

Read on to know more about how traffic jams affect your health and cause stress, anxiety, and type 2 diabetes.

How Do Traffic Jams Affect Your Health?

Traffic jams lead to worry and stress. Recent studies have shown that developing nations like India are the worst affected by stress. A significant cause of stress in India is traffic congestion that can be attributed to overpopulation, high density of population in urban areas, and insufficient public transportation facilities. Cars and two-wheelers are the most popular forms of urban transport in India, as people find public transport options infrequent, crowded or too slow.

Here are the various ways that traffic jams can negatively impact your health and well-being:

  • High Blood Pressure Leading to Hypertension: Research has found that the distance you travel in a jam is directly related to your blood pressure. The longer a commuter has to travel for work, the higher is his blood pressure. Constant exposure to traffic congestion leads to commuter stress. This can cause stress-induced lifestyle diseases like hypertension as well.
  • Respiratory Problems: Long-term exposure to exhaust fumes in a traffic jam can cause respiratory problems like wheezing, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and even lung cancer.
  • Anxiety and Depression: People who commute long distances for work every day are at risk of developing anxiety and depression. They also tend to become socially isolated.  
  • Neck and Back Pain: Sitting slouched over a car steering wheel or bike handlebars for several hours daily can cause chronic neck and back pain.
  • Lower Fitness Levels Leading to Heart Disease and Obesity: Long commutes also cut down your exercise time, resulting in poor fitness, higher obesity, and heart disease. Such commuters are at a much higher risk of getting heart attacks and strokes.
  • Decline in Level of Satisfaction and Happiness: Studies have shown that people with long daily commutes show lower levels of happiness and satisfaction in life than people with no or short commutes.

How to Stress Less in a Traffic Jam?

Now that we know traffic jams cause anger, stress, and anxiety which adversely impact our health, here are a few suggestions to help you avoid or minimise stress during a commute:

  • Reroute or Reschedule: If you have flexible working hours, you can leave early and beat the traffic. If your hours are not flexible, you can still leave early and use the time to exercise and shower at a gym near the office. You can also take an alternate route that has less congestion.
  • Listen to Music: Listen to soothing music like soft rock, jazz or instrumental. This will help you relax during your drive. You can also listen to an audiobook.
  • Try Breathing Exercises: Inhale and exhale deeply and repeat. Breathing exercises calm you down and reduce stress.
  • Quell Your Anger: It is natural to become angry when someone cuts you off, but do not dwell on it. Instead, accept what you feel and move on, so that a flash of irritation does not build up to become road rage.
  • Curtail Your Anxiety: If you feel anxious about being late to work because of the traffic jam, reduce your anxiety by accepting your feelings and then letting them go. Focus on the present – vehicles moving or the music from the radio.

How Traffic Jams can Cause Diabetes?

The stress caused by traffic jams is a significant contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes. Stress is a physiological reaction controlled by our nervous system to help us cope with environmental challenges. The frustration you feel towards delays and wasted time in a traffic jam can cause psychosocial stress and even aggression.

Research has shown that mental and physical stress can raise blood glucose levels. Chronic stress also causes insulin resistance in our body. This means that the body’s cells resist the signal that the hormone insulin sends – to take glucose from the blood and use that for energy. This eventually results in type 2 diabetes.

Lab Tests for Diabetes:

If you spend many hours stuck in traffic jams and experience symptoms like increased thirst, increased hunger just after eating, urge to urinate frequently, fatigue, sudden weight loss, blurred vision or headaches, you should get tested for type 2 diabetes. These are early warning signs for type 2 diabetes.

You can book an appointment for tests at Medlife Labs, namely, HbA1C, glucose tolerance test, and fasting and postprandial blood sugar tests. You can also call on 7022000900 to book free home sample collection.

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