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Published: 06 August 2015

Frequent travel is damaging to health and wellbeing

A new study has described how the glamorisation of frequent, long-haul travel ignores the physiological, psychological, and societal costs of our ‘hypermobile’ lifestyles.

Researchers from the University of Surrey and Lund University (Sweden) investigated how frequent, long-distance travel is represented in mass and social media. They found that the images portrayed do not take into account the damaging side-effects of frequent travel such as jet-lag, deep vein thrombosis, radiation exposure, stress, loneliness and distance from community and family networks.

Instead, the study found that those with ‘hypermobile’ lifestyles were often seen as having a higher social status. First-class flights, ‘must-see’ destinations and frequent-flyer programmes glamorise hypermobility as exciting, appealing and exclusive, but the study shows how the ‘dark side’ of travel is ignored.

Dr Scott Cohen, in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said:  “A man in a sharp suit, reclining in a leather chair, laptop open in front of him, a smiley stewardess serving a scotch and soda. This is often the image of travel, particularly business travel, portrayed in TV ads and glossy magazines. But there is a dark side to this ‘glamorised’ hypermobile lifestyle that the media, and society ignores.

“The reality is that most people who are required to engage in frequent travel suffer high levels of stress, loneliness and long-term health problems. There are also wider implications for the environment and sustainability. In this context, hypermobility seems far from glamourous.”

The researchers call for more discussion on the adverse effects of hypermobility, to realistically reflect the negative impact of frequent and long-haul travel.

Dr Cohen added: “Society needs to recognise that the jet-set lifestyle is not all it’s made out to be. By striving to travel far, wide and frequently we are damaging the environment, ourselves and potentially our closest loved ones.”

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