Frequent business travellers are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who travel less often, according to a new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Smoking, sleep problems, and lack of exercise were also more prevalent among people who travel for business two weeks or more each month compared to those who travel between one and six nights monthly, researchers led by Andrew Rundle, an associate professor of epidemiology, concluded in the study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Business travellers who consumed alcohol also saw their risk of alcoholism rise the more they travelled, the study found.

“Although business travel can be seen as a job benefit and can lead to occupational advancement, there is a growing literature showing that extensive business travel is associated with risk of chronic diseases associated with lifestyle factors,” said Rundle.

“The field of occupational travel medicine needs to expand beyond its current focus on infectious disease, cardiovascular disease risks, violence, and injury to bring more focus to the behavioural and mental health consequences of business travel.”

The findings were based on the health and travel records of 18,328 employees.

“At the individual-level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep,” advised Rundle.

“However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel.

“Employers should provide employees who travel for business with accommodations that have access to physical activity facilities and healthy food options.”