Posted on 23-10-2012
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Chloe Davies

They may pride themselves on performing the perfect parallel park and never asking for directions. But it seems male drivers are consistently overtaken by women when it comes to staying cool in congestion.

Men’s stress levels soar seven times higher than women’s when they are stuck in a traffic jam, a study has revealed.

And they are more likely to feel angry and frustrated about wasting time in gridlock – while women relieve the pressure by singing along to the radio.

Psychologists measured levels of stress chemicals in the saliva of volunteers sitting in heavy traffic. Women stayed relatively cool and calm, with their stress levels rising by an average of just 8.7 per cent as they waited behind the wheel.

But men accelerated themselves into a rage, with their levels of the same chemicals typically rocketing by 60 per cent.

Despite that being enough to put pressure on the heart, cause dizziness and trigger breathing problems, many of them had no idea they were experiencing stress.

Two-thirds of the women and half of the men reported feeling no pressure after spending 20 minutes stuck in traffic, even though the readings proved otherwise.

One explanation for the difference between the sexes is that men are more reliant on the ‘fight or flight’ response to stressful situations – which means they feel they must either confront the problem or walk away from it.

But when they are stuck behind the wheel, they cannot take either option and get increasingly frustrated. Women, on the other hand, are better at using simple methods of distraction, such as singing along to the radio.

With almost half of adults travelling to work by car every day, those whose stress levels soar when they get stuck in traffic could be setting themselves up for stress-related health problems. Psychologist David Moxon, who carried out the research for satnav manufacturer TomTom, warned frustration could also make their driving erratic and potentially dangerous.

He added: “These findings make good evolutionary sense. Men, in particular, show a strong acute physiological fight or flight response. The fact that they are not always aware of this could indicate that driving regularly in dense traffic could have a profound effect on their health.”

Corinne Vigreux, TomTom’s managing director, suggested the best solution was to avoid congestion by taking a different route.

She added: “Many drivers see traffic congestion as a necessary evil. But this research proves that we have an obligation to challenge this line of thinking.

“We can help drivers break free from traffic, minimise stress for the sake of their health and ultimately reduce traffic congestion for all.”

A global survey of 10 000 drivers for TomTom showed 72 per cent used their cars on a daily basis and 86 per cent felt traffic had a negative impact on their lives. Methods of coping included making phone calls and eating on the move – both of which can be dangerous.

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