If you live in or near the Atlanta metropolitan area, you are most likely well aware of the fact that traffic is an unavoidable aspect of life in this part of the world.
What you may not realize is that this source of occasional frustration may also put you at increased risk for a variety of health problems, including depression.
According to the 2016 edition of the annual Metro Atlanta Speaks survey, the residents of the metropolitan Atlanta area have identified transportation as the area’s issue that causes them the most concern. In the four years that the Atlanta Regional Commission has conducted this survey, transportation has topped the list of concerns three times. In 2013, transportation placed second to the economy as the leading source of angst in the metro Atlanta area.
The Metro Atlanta Survey involved more than 5,000 respondents from 13 counties in central Georgia, including Clayton County. A county-by-county breakdown of data collected by this survey indicates that Clayton County was one of seven Atlanta-area counties to rank transportation as the second most pressing concern, behind a crime.
Other transportation questions that were included in the Metro Atlanta Survey focused on proposed solutions to alleviate the area’s traffic problems, such as expanding access to public transportation, improving the quality of roads in the metro Atlanta area, and developing better communities to encourage people to live closer to where they work.
What was left unaddressed by the Metro Atlanta Survey is the ongoing psychological impact that traffic may be having on the mental health of residents in Clayton County, and in other cities and counties throughout the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.
For example, a study that was published in the June 2012 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who endured daily long commutes were at increased risk for a variety of metabolic health problems, as well as anxiety and depression. The researchers who conducted this study found that a commute of 10 miles or more can be enough to raise a person’s risk for depression and other negative effects.
This 10-mile threshold for depression and other physical and mental health problems should be particularly concerning to those who live and work in the metro Atlanta area. In 2015, the Metropolitan Policy Program reported that metro Atlanta residents averaged a 12.8-mile daily commute, the longest in the nation.
Of course, not everyone who drives more than 10 miles per day will develop depression. But the statistical uptick in depression cases among people who are forced to spend extended periods of time in traffic should be a clear warning to individuals who find themselves in a similar situation.
If you or someone that you care about has been demonstrating signs or symptoms of depression, it is important to get a thorough assessment and an accurate diagnosis from a qualified professional.
Depressive disorders are treatable conditions, and with proper care, individuals whose lives have been disrupted or devastated by depression can learn to manage their symptoms and resume their pursuit of healthier and more satisfying futures. However, before a person can emerge from the darkness of depression into the bright promise of long-term recovery, he or she must first become aware of the problem and then seek appropriate care.