The North American workaholic mindset is raging. So many of us are obsessed with work and staying productive. So much so, that we can’t even break away and take the time for a vacation! Studies show that most U.S. employees only take HALF of their paid vacation time. 61% admit to doing some work while on vacation and 24% are contacted by co-workers regarding a work-related matter while they are away.
Mix a lack of vacation with the chronic work stress that the majority of North Americans report on a daily basis and the result is serious damage to your health and well-being. Vacations are not a luxury; they are a necessity!
More recently, health researchers have taken a look at the mental, physical, and physiological benefits of taking vacations. Here are four of the consistent Health Benefits they’ve found:
1) Stress Reduction.
Chronic job stress has many adverse effects including physiological effects, decreased work performance, absenteeism, anxiety and burnout. Learn more about chronic stress in our Stressed-Out Blog series. Research by the University of California shows that vacations improve the body’s physiological response to stress for 4 weeks following vacation. This was consistent with another study published in Psychology and Health that demonstrated a decrease in perceived work stress and a decrease in burnout for 4 weeks following a vacation.
2) Heart Disease Prevention.
The connection between behavioural/psychological factors and heart health has been well researched. Researchers have even zeroed in on the effect that vacation has on heart disease risk. The Framingham Heart Study demonstrated how both men and women are more likely to have a heart attack when they don’t take vacation time at lease twice a year. Annual vacations reduced risk of all-cause mortality and Coronary Heart Disease in middle aged men.
3) Improved Immune System Function.
Taking vacations benefit your immune system. Research demonstrates how vacation changes gene expression processes that result in an improved immune system function.
4) Decreased Depression.
A research study done by the university of Wisconsin Showed how women who vacation twice a year or more are less likely to become depressed than other women. The same study showed an increase in martial satisfaction among women who vacation twice a year.
On the Flip Side:
Research has shown that not ALL vacations are beneficial. Harvard Business Review has a great article about how to avoid stressful vacays and make sure you are getting the health benefits that you deserve!
Average U.S. Employee Only Takes Half of Earned Vacation Time; Glassdoor Employment Confidence Survey (Q1 2014). April 3 2014. https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/average-employee-takes-earned-vacation-time-glassdoor-employment-confidence-survey-q1-2014/
Chikani V, Reding D, Gunderson P, McCarty C. Vacations Improve Mental Health among Rural Women: The Wisconsin Rural Women’s Health Study. Wisconsin Medical Journal. (2005) Vol. 104 https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/_WMS/publications/wmj/pdf/104/6/20.pdf
Brooks G, Matthews K. Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9-Year Mortality Experience After the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Psychomatic Medicine. (2000) Vol. 62 Issue 5. http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2000/09000/Are_Vacations_Good_for_Your_Health__The_9_Year.3.aspx
Greenburg M. Is a Vacation or Meditation the Key to Stress Relief? Psychologytoday.com (2016) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201609/is-vacation-or-meditation-the-key-stress-relief
Westman M, Etzion D. The impact of vacation and job stress on burnout and absenteeism. Psychology and Health. Vol 16 (2001).