When you see the current airport threat advisory level as orange, you immediately associate it with the current risk of terrorist acts.
While that is, technically, what the orange threat level stands for, the second most serious advisory warning might also be a caution against travelers’ personal health.
According to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, “Road warriors who travel for business two weeks or more a month have higher body mass index, higher rates of obesity and poorer self-rated health than those who travel less often.”
Lead researchers Andrew G. Rundle, DrPH and Catherine A. Richards, MPH, reported that business people who traveled the most (20 or more days a month) have poorer health on a number of measures compared with those who travel between one and six days a month.
For example, extensive travelers:
• Had a mean body mass index (BMI) of 27.5 kg/m2 versus 26.1 for light travelers
• Had a mean HDL level of 53.3 mg/DLversus 56.1 for light travelers
• Had a mean diastolic pressure of 76.2 mmHG versus 74.6 for light travelers
• Were 260 percent more likely to rate their health as fair to poor compared to light travelers
Employees who did not travel at all also scored poorly on health measures, according to the report.
The researchers stated that non-travelers were about 60 percent more likely than light travelers to rate their health as fair to poor and had a mean body mass index of 26.7 kg/m2. Authors say that employees who don’t travel at all may stay home simply because they, initially, don’t have good enough health to lend themselves to traveling.
"Consistently we found that health outcomes were worse for those not traveling and those traveling the most," said Richards, doctoral candidate in the Mailman School Department of Epidemiology and first author.
While research to date has associated business travel with infectious disease health risks, this is the one of the first studies to report the effects of business travel on health risks associated with cardiovascular disease.
The study involved in excess of 13,000 employees in a corporate wellness program.