US & World

Traffic and unemployment are making you sick

Rush hour traffic in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.
Rush hour traffic in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

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Commuting can make you sick.  

A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines health in the U.S. county by county, looking at less obvious causes of illness, including joblessness and traffic. 

“You might ask, what does that have to do with my health,” says Michelle Larkin, assistant vice president of  the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “But think about it. When we’re in the car taking long commutes we’re probably in a heightened state of stress.”

(Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

And stress can lead to problems like heart disease. Turns out unemployment is unhealthy, too, because without a paycheck you can't buy good food, and may not be able to see the doctor when you’re sick.

It all adds up. The premature death rate in the least healthy counties is twice the rate of the healthy ones. Same thing for children living in poverty, and teen births.