Risk factors for psychological stress among international business travellers

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Abstract

Objectives

This study investigated sources of self reported psychological stress among international business travellers at the World Bank, following up on a previous study showing that travellers submitted more insurance claims for psychological disorders. Hypotheses were that work, personal, family, and health concerns, as well as time zone travel, contribute to travel stress.

Methods

A travel survey was developed from focus groups and consisted of questions about these potential sources of travel stress. Surveys were sent to a random sample of staff, stratified by number of travel missions, age range, and sex. Canonical correlation analyses estimated the association between key survey items on sources of stress and two measures of travel stress.

Results

498 staff completed the survey. More than a third reported high to very high travel stress. Correlations between predictors and travel stress showed that social and emotional concerns (such as impact of travel on family and sense of isolation) contributed the most to such stress, followed by health concerns, and workload upon return from travel. Surprisingly, time zone travel did not contribute to the self reported stress of these travellers. There were few modifiers of stress, although respondents suggested that a day of rest after travel and reduced workloads would help.

Conclusions

The current study confirms clinical impressions about several correlates of travel stress. Similar research with travellers in other organisations could help to determine whether the findings from this study are valid and what measures can be taken to reduce the psychological health risks to travellers.

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