Get Rid of Your Car and Be Happier

March 4, 2024
Michael Gardner

Michael Gardner

No one likes traffic; I challenge you to find a single person who does. It’s slow, loud and stressful overall. However, the impact of traffic extends beyond the road itself. A 2015 study of Canadians who regularly commuted to work by car found that longer commutes were associated with higher levels of stress. Fierce traffic and unpredictable travel times were also correlated with a poorer quality of life. 1 Since chronic stress is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other health conditions, commuting in a high-stress environment every day can severely shorten your lifespan. 2,3,4 Altogether, lengthy commutes take a significant mental and physical toll. 

What are some practical implications for us as students?

When job hunting, you should consider the commute you might encounter. Does at least an hour a day seem reasonable? You could also try driving the commute during rush hours to see if you would be comfortable doing so daily. Then, you can decide if the job’s pros outweigh the cons.

Another consideration while job hunting is your ability to work from home. Even though it was found that people who telecommute tended to drive just as far, if not farther, every day as commuters, those trips were primarily for errands or short trips that otherwise would have been completed on the commute to or from work. It’s also the case that shorter drives don’t tend to elicit high stress levels. 1 While you would need to compare the pros and cons of working at home, the reduced stress from telecommuting is something to keep in mind.

Finally, consider alternative forms of transportation like cycling and walking. Since they are forms of exercise, they can improve both physical and mental health. 5,6 You can also eliminate a significant amount of your carbon dioxide emissions by simply not utilizing your car nearly as much. When deciding whether or not a job is right for you, or even traveling around West Lafayette, consider if you could reasonably cycle or walk there. As long as the path is safe and there’s good infrastructure in place, consider the benefits of being more active and choose an alternative way of commuting.

In a perfect world, all of these options would be viable for every job and living arrangement, but that’s not the reality. However, when applying for your next job or just contemplating your daily routes, think about alternative forms of commuting and their benefits. Getting rid of your car may not only be good for the planet, but for your own well-being.

Michael Gardner is a first-year student studying genetics with plans to add a minor in psychology and become a genetic counselor. He is a native of South Carolina.


  1. Lengthy commutes take a mental toll. Association for Psychological Science-APS.(2015,September 30).
  2. Perkins, K. (2022, January 4). Chronic stress can reduce lifespan, says recent Yale
    Study. Connecticut Public.
  3. Gallo, L. C., Roesch, S. C., Fortmann, A. L., Carnethon, M. R., Penedo, F. J.,Perreira, K., Birnbaum-Weitzman, O., Wassertheil-Smoller, S., Castañeda, S. F., Talavera, G. A., Sotres-Alvarez, D., Daviglus, M. L., Schneiderman, N., & Isasi, C. R.(2014). Associations of chronic stress burden, perceived stress, and traumatic stress with cardiovascular disease prevalence and risk factors in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos Sociocultural Ancillary Study. Psychosomatic medicine, 76(6), 468–475.
  4. Antoun, M., Edwards, K. M., Sweeting, J., & Ding, D. (2017). The acute physiological stress response to driving: A systematic review. PloS one, 12(10), e0185517.
  5. Andrews, L. (2015, May 26). Bicycling can sharpen your thinking and improve your mood. Psychology Today.
  6. Loria, K. (2019, May 13). The health benefits of biking to work. Consumer Reports.