10/25/2012 09:55 EDT | Updated 10/25/2012 09:59 EDT

Waiting In Line: Why Long Wait Times Make People Frustrated


Your one foot is tapping and the other one is probably falling asleep. Whether it's waiting in a government office, standing in a line for lunch or even sitting in a waiting area, long wait times — especially if you're an impatient person — can feel like torture.

Writer Gretchen Rubin, when referring to David Maister's report on the psychology of waiting, says there are several factors that can make wait times seem longer than they actually are.

"Maister’s main point is that the actual time we’re waiting may have little relationship to how long that wait feels," she wrote in an article for

Maiser and Rubin argue that distractions, anxiety and the value of a service will dictate how impatiently or calm one may react while waiting in line. While waiting for a doctor during an emergency, one will actually feel calmer than waiting for a store clerk at the mall and people are less likely to be impatient if someone tells them a doctor will be with them shortly, she adds.

And yet, even when we know we're getting a stamp on our passports or a seat on that bus, standing or sitting around adds levels of stress, boredom and nagging, according to writer Alex Stone. What's even worse is that some wait times are slowly taking a toll on our health.

One study found that vehicle exhaust fumes during traffic jams can lead to brain cell damage and be a risk factor for autism, according to the Washington Journal. And even though most health experts prefer people standing all day to sitting, standing for a long period of time can also increase the risk of carotid atherosclerosis (thickening of artery walls) and in general is more exhausting for our bodies to handle, according to Time.

And some wait times are longer than others. In 2011, the median wait time for surgery in Canada was 19 weeks — a jump from 18.2 weeks in 2010, according to CTV News.

Of course there are also waiting periods that are completely voluntary. New game releases, movie previews or concert tickets have people waiting for hours and sometimes even days. The Atlantic reported that some people even waited in line for 10 days for new iPhone in 2011.

What's the longest time you had to wait in line (involuntarily, of course)? Let us know in the comments below:

RELATED: Here are 6 ways to get good posture and 4 exercises you can try in your cubicle or waiting area (if you're brave enough) in 20 minutes:

11 Exercises For Better Posture