Commuter Triangle

Reporter: Rohan Wenn

Every day, millions of Australians get up early, leave their families and head off to work. But new research suggests few of us realize just how damaging these commutes can be to our sense of happiness.

On the streets traffic barely moves, while the rolling stock are chock a block full of people like James Williams, who would rather be doing just about anything else. "It impacts on the time you can spend with the kids so therefore it impacts on your happiness. I'm spending less time with them", James said.

James has a good job in the city, but it brings with it a bad commute. Driving takes an hour and a half and for most of the trip he feels like he's going no-where. By rail the journey can take the best part of an hour.But groundbreaking research from Harvard University shows James isn't wrong to feel his commute is driving him mad. t's a concept that's been dubbed the "commuter triangle" and here's how it works. Put simply, the distance between where you live, where you shop and where you work forms a triangle -- the smaller that triangle, on average, the happier you are.

Professor Barbara Pocock is Director of the Centre for Work and Family at the University of South Australia. Professor Pocock says large commuter triangles impact on our happiness in a number of ways. Firstly they keep us from spending time with our families, so we end up feeling like bad partners and bad parents. "We've done research that shows children are very alert to that, they're right onto it, they notice the stress that parents are under and they say, I don't plan to be like that, I won't do that when I grow up and become a worker", Professor Pocock said.

Large commuter triangles also makes us feel isolated because, even though we are surrounded by people in traffic and on trains, we usually don't talk to them. "They find that time the most stressful time of the day, even if they're just sitting in the car, it is the time they enjoy the least. Lots of people are still doing that commute in a car and in our big cities, the length of that commute is increasing", she said.

Ideally a commuter triangle should be no bigger than about half an hour on any one leg, and preferably quite a bit less. Damien Rosario has recently quit his big city job to work closer to home, and even though his pay dropped by 40%, he says he couldn't be happier with leaving for work at twenty to nine and getting back home again just after five.

He's also saves more than $1,800 a year in train fares. "The pay is OK because my costs are reduced. I don't have to pay for train tickets or petrol, I'm not buying lunch in the city and all the extra costs involved. Basically all the shops are around as well, so during lunch breaks I can actually go shopping close to home, I know all the shops, I know the area and I know my way around, so everything is very quick", Damien said. And it seems James agrees. He's hoping to turn his back on the big smoke any day now.