Researchers from the GSF-National Research Centre for Environment and Health in Neuherberg, Germany released some disturbing findings last week: The amount of time commuters spend in traffic could actually increase their risk of heart attack.
Eight percent of the 691 German heart attack survivors studied reported heart attacks within hours of exposure to stressful traffic situations related to commuting. Researchers believe that stress, when combined with airborne pollutants like ground-level ozone and carbon dioxide, can increase an individual's risk of heart attack threefold.
“Given our current knowledge, it is impossible to determine the relative contribution of risk factors such as stress and traffic-related air pollution,” said Annette Peters, lead author of the study. “It seems difficult to avoid these exposures because transport is an important part of our daily lives."
Interestingly, traffic posed a risk regardless of the mode of transportation. Heart attacks were 2.6 times more common for automobile drivers, 3.1 times higher for bus riders and 3.9 times greater for bicyclists.