Podcasts And Happiness

Recent studies on happiness conclude that longer commutes have a direct negative impact on levels of  happiness:
According to the calculations of Frey and Stutzer[1], a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. Another study[2], led by Daniel Kahneman and the economist Alan Krueger, surveyed nine hundred working women in Texas and found that commuting was, by far, the least pleasurable part of their day.

That should have made me downright miserable, considering that my new job has increased my commute by about 4000%. I went from walking across my street to driving about 40 minutes each way, in gnarly LA traffic no less.

Luckily, I’ve discovered podcasts – albeit a decade too late – to keep me sane. I’ve mostly stuck to Martin Fowler’s recommendations with the addition of Freakonomics radio. By far the most consistently interesting podcast I’ve come across is RadioLab. The episode Detective Stories with three stories around digging up the past is particularly captivating.

While I believe that podcasts have ensured that my happiness has not dropped or may even have increased, they’ve brought problems of their own. There are times when I realize that I’ll be reaching my destination before the end of an episode, resulting in me quixotically willing the traffic lights to turn red and hoping that my commute was a wee bit longer. File that one under first world problems.


I’ve tentatively settled on Google’s Listen app as my podcast delivery vehicle of choice on Android. It’s buggy and not supported any more by Google, but it syncs with my Google Reader account. I would happily pay for the BeyondPod app if I could figure out how to sync a specific folder within Google Reader.


Sidebar: While searching for the study linking happiness to commute lengths, the first result was Jonah Lehrer’s post (linked above). Turns out that Jonah is also the contributor to RadioLab and contributed to my other favorite episode which randomly enough happens to about the pervasiveness of randomness in our lives.


[1] Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox by Stutzer and Frey

[2] Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being by Kahneman and Krueger

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