by tClara managing partner Scott Gillespie | July 17, 2018

BTN's readers will benefit from a different take on a key implication raised by Dr. Rundle in this op-ed:

 I agree that mental and physical health are important issues for road warriors and that high volumes of travel are correlated with a number of poor wellness indicators. Traveler wellness is an increasingly important issue, and Dr. Rundle's article gives excellent advice for improving traveler health and wellness.

 However, I offer a different view about the correlation between nights away and scores for anxiety and depression, or A&D.

 ARC and tClara are sponsoring a forthcoming study of 742 U.S.-based road warriors. Road warriors are defined as those with at least four business trips, mostly by plane, and at least 35 nights away in the last 12 months. This study's data show a weak negative correlation between nights away and A&D scores. So where Dr. Rundle's data shows that more nights away is positively correlated with-i.e., may be a cause of-higher A&D scores, our data shows the opposite.

We do see a strong correlation between age and mental health scores. The A&D scores are lowest (healthiest) for the oldest cohort, age 55-66, and rise, get worse, as the cohort age decreases. The average number of nights away increases slightly with the mean age of each cohort. This suggests that age is a much more important predictor of A&D scores than are nights away.

 Cohort Avg. Age A&D Score* Avg. Nights Away Last 12 Mos.

*Editor's note: The oldest cohort with the lowest raw A&D score was used as a baseline. A&D scores for the remaining cohorts were calculated relative to that baseline

 It's worth noting some significant differences between Dr. Rundle's study and ours. His study focuses on business travelers regardless of transportation mode, and presumably includes a large percentage of road warriors who drive rather than fly. It is also based on a much, much larger number of respondents. His study uses the cut points of 14 to 20 nights away per month and 21 or more nights away per month. Our study uses the cut points of 35 to 50, 51 to 85 and more than 86 nights away per year. I believe both studies use the same four questions to obtain scores for A&D indicators; our study uses a slightly different weighting scheme to calculate the scores.

 The 2015 ARC Trip Friction database of 109,000 randomly drawn anonymous business travelers, all based on ticketed airline itineraries, shows that those who travel at least 14 nights away per month (168 nights per year) represent 4/10ths of one percent of business travelers who traveled by air. Those who travel 21 nights a month or more (over 252 nights per year) represent 4/100ths of one percent of all such business travelers. While understanding the effects of extreme levels of business travel may well lead to useful insights, travel managers may be better served by understanding the impacts of business travel on more typical groups of travelers.

 Our forthcoming study will provide more insights about the relationships between travel and road warrior wellness; trip success, attrition risk and desire to travel. It should significantly advance the quantification of these important topics.