Public transport users are too stressed on their journeys

Mental health, quality of life, and the economy are all impacted by stress in the environment. Travelers with more time on the road have a better ability to evaluate potential dangers.

Public transport users are too stressed on their journeys
Passengers on public transportation frequently report feeling anxious. Photo by Mariel Rodriguez / Unsplash

Environmental stress has consequences on mental health, people's quality of life, and even on the economy. Individual will is required to change their mobility habits. Those who spend more time on the road are more likely to assess and perceive risks.

Eighteen percent of those who live and work in Mexico City (CDMX) say they always or almost always experience stress during their commute, mainly in public transportation, but in those who live in suburban municipalities and the State of Mexico and commute to the capital, it increases to 24 and 35 percent, respectively.

This was stated by Fransilvania Callejas Perez, from the Masters and Doctorate Program in Psychology of the Faculty of Psychology (FP) of the UNAM, who conducted a study during the health emergency caused by the coronavirus, in which 80 percent of the users of this service reported that their journeys are long, from 60 to 240 minutes, mainly for those who live in the bordering areas of the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico (ZMVM) and travel to the metropolis.

Environmental stress has consequences on mental health, people's quality of life, and even on the economy. Recent studies warn that mobility problems cost Mexicans close to 69 billion pesos. The stress of waiting in tense environments, such as a hospital, should also be evaluated by implementing public policies that provide humanized physical conditions.

People are repeatedly subjected to prolonged aggressions -such as noise and pollution- chronic conditions of which it is necessary to raise awareness. Public policies are necessary to restructure the way we transport ourselves. However, the individual will is also required to change transportation habits.

Ensuring a safe environment

There is no direct relationship between travel time and stress, but there is when variables related to how we interpret and experience the risks associated with that time and the way we deal with it intervenes. Those who spend more time on the road are more likely to assess and perceive risks, which causes them to experience stress more regularly.

To avoid this situation, they can use emotional distancing strategies by thinking about other situations and distracting themselves from what is happening at the moment; this can only be achieved if a safe environment is guaranteed, without the risk of robbery or assault.

Its research -conducted based on 32 qualitative interviews and after analyzing 728 instruments answered online- also asked about aspects related to time, comfort, and cost of transportation, among other issues.

Fifty percent of users considered that their transportation is never or rarely safe and that the units are not clean. In addition, 78 percent expressed that they are also not safe from coronavirus conditions.

With the pandemic, in addition to these daily problems, there are other problems associated with the risk of contracting COVID-19, related to the behavior of drivers and users, such as not using masks, which generates anxiety, stress, and fear of infection.

The lack of cleanliness, use of old units, and a high number of passengers were seen as a nuisance but were not perceived as a health risk. Today, poor ventilation and overcrowding are seen as a danger of contracting SARS-CoV-2.

During the sanitary emergency, mobility patterns were modified, since the confinement considerably reduced traffic in the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico, where about 35 million trips are made, of which seven million are by public transportation.

In the session, Maricela Irepan, also from the Master's and Doctorate Program in Psychology, referred to a study on environmental simulation with 132 patients, to whom images and videos with natural contents were projected, to create restorative, relaxing environments.

Given the positive results of this type of space, hospitals began to implement green areas, therapeutic gardens, or terraces. Likewise, they have installed screens that simulate the sky or areas with trees in radiotherapy rooms, said the university professor.