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Will Frequent Travel Be the Death of You?

Travel is typically portrayed as an antidote to life’s silent killers: stress, overwork, anxiety, alienation. The postcard version of leisure travel depicts a family frolic on a movie-set beach, all blue skies, sparkling surf, and beaming smiles. Road Warriors, for their part, are eternally ensconced in a first-class lounge’s plush armchairs, with a Wall Street Journal in one hand and a Champagne flute in the other.

A new study, ominously entitled “A Darker Side of Hypermobility,” paints a very different picture, arguing that travel is itself a killer.

As befits the product of two university professors, the 19-page paper is decidedly academic, if not downright wonky. From the introduction:

In this critical review, deeply embedded mechanisms of the social glamorization of mobility are uncovered, and juxtaposed with what we call a ‘darker side’ of hypermobility, including the physiological, psychological, emotional and social costs of mobility for individuals and societies. The paper concludes that whilst aspects of glamorization in regard to mobility are omnipresent in our lives, there exists an ominous silence with regard to its darker side.

Academy-speak aside, the authors’ basic point is that travel has been so glamorized that we have been blinded to its “darker side.” And that darker side can be positively deadly. “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.” Among the problems cited:

  • Radiation exposure, potentially exceeding safe limits
  • Higher incidence of deep-vein thrombosis
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Exposure to infectious diseases
  • Lifestyle degradation (less exercise, poor diet, more alcohol consumption)
  • “Travel disorientation”
  • Jet lag
  • “Overload shock” from cultural dislocation
  • Loneliness
  • Strained friendships and family connections
  • “Significantly higher risk of developing psychological disorders”

According to one of the study’s authors, “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.”

You’ve been warned.

Now, back to planning your next trip.

Reader Reality Check

How concerned are you about the travel dangers alluded to in this study?

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