Improve your health, take a vacation

lifestyle design, Travel Perspectives — By on June 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Americans work more hours and take fewer vacation days than pretty much anyone else in the industrialized world. Now, though, comes evidence that vacations are more than a fun perk – they may actually help you stay healthy and live longer.

Here are the vacation stats:

A global study by Expedia.com found that about a third of employed Americans usually do not take all the vacation days that they are entitled to, leaving an average of three days on the table. This is not so unusual. About a quarter of the workers in Britain do not take all their vacation time, and in France a little less. The only difference is that the British get an average of 26 days of vacation and the French about 37 — compared with our 14 days, Expedia.com said.

According to John de Graaf, executive director of Take Back Your Time, a nonprofit organization that studies issues related to overwork, 137 countries mandate paid vacation time. The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t…

And the Conference Board, a private research group, said the number of Americans who said in April that they were going to take a vacation in the next six months is at a 30-year low.

That’s all well and good, you might be saying, but I can’t leave work for very long or I’ll be swamped when I return. Besides, how can I use all my vacation time if my boss or co-workers don’t use all of theirs? Well, now there are studies supporting the short and long-term health benefits of regular vacations.

(In one study) women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year…

The study, published in 1992, was controlled for other factors like obesity, diabetes, smoking and income, Ms. Eaker said, and the findings have been substantiated in follow-up research.

“It shows how the body reacts to a lifestyle of stress,” she said. “This is real evidence that vacations are important to your physical health.”

Another study, published in 2000, looked at 12,000 men over nine years who were at high risk for coronary heart disease. Those who failed to take annual vacations had a 21 percent higher risk of death from all causes and were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.

Want more evidence? Here it is – but remember, the real health benefits go to those who take a real vacation, and not those who stay hooked up to work from the beach.

After a few days on vacation — and it usually took two to three — people were averaging an hour more of good quality sleep. And there was an 80 percent improvement in their reaction times.

“When they got home, they were still sleeping close to an hour more, and their reaction time was 30 to 40 percent higher than it had been before the trip,” Mr. Rosekind said.

The trick, these days when going on vacation, is not only to physically remove yourself from your normal routine, but mentally as well. Checking your BlackBerry every few hours or rushing to the nearest Internet cafe doesn’t cut it.

For 10 years, the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University has conducted a study looking at what is called “respite effects,” which measure relief from job stress before, during and after vacations.

Professor Dov Eden, an organizational psychologist who has conducted the study, found that those who are electronically hooked up to their office, even if they are lying on the Riviera, are less likely to receive the real benefits of a vacation and more likely to burn out.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul Hutch says:

    Since we’ve had this information for 16 years now (study published in 92) but US employers and the government have made no effort to act on the evidence, I’m afraid US workers will never get any where near EU standards for vacation. 🙁

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