Doctor’s Orders: Take Your Vacation
Vacations are good for you.
While it shouldn’t come as a surprise to most people, it still doesn’t mean Americans are taking their earned vacation time. The evidence is strong and should be enough to get you to pull out their calendars and plan some time off.
Some of the most compelling medical evidence is in the area of heart health:
- The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial for the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The trial followed 12,000 men over a nine-year period that had a high risk for coronary heart disease. The study found that any such men who take frequent annual vacations were 21 percent less likely to die from any cause and were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
- The landmark Framingham Heart Study–the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease– revealed that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who did take time off. And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.
Beyond heart health, there is a case to be made for vacations helping to decrease depression and lessen stress:
- Decreased depression – A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center surveyed some 1,400 individuals and found that leisure activities – including taking vacations – contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. The benefits of vacationing also extended to lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
- Less stress – A study released last year by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that tend to be sources of stress. Similarly, a Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers found that taking vacations helped alleviate job stress.
Vacation time is part of employee benefits for good reason, and better health is just part of the equation. But if a stronger heart and less stress are possible through something 96% of Americans consider important anyway, the reasons to forgo time off don’t seem nearly as important.