The value of taking a vacation is often underappreciated. Roughly a quarter of all Americans receive no paid vacation each year. Among those that do, more than half fail to use the vacation days they earn. And globally, the U.S. is one of the few developed countries without any employer-mandated vacation allowances. One might say that not taking a vacation is more typical of American culture than actually taking one.
It may not sound like not taking a vacation is a health threat, but research consistently says otherwise. The benefits of a vacation are numerous, and not only include physical health but also mental health. And even employers benefit from the vacations taken by employees. Based on recent surveys, the benefits of a vacation are more profound than previously thought.
Taking a Vacation Offers Holistic Wellness
Taking a vacation boosts several wellness indicators. A survey involving 2,000 people in the United Kingdom highlight some pretty impressive findings in this regard. And it proves what many already know: taking a vacation is not just fun but also healthy!
The Benefits of a Vacation on Physical Health
According to the 1992 Framingham Study, male vacationers were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack, with females 50 percent less likely. Similar findings have now been reported for assessments of wellness, energy, fitness, and sleep quality. In fact, taking a vacation annually increased wellness in these areas by 9 to 14 percent when compared to non-vacationers. And though not studied, it is highly likely these effects result in greater longevity and quality of life as well.
The Benefits of a Vacation on Mental Health
Multiple studies have linked high levels of stress to poor health outcomes. Stress can lead to heart disease, some cancers, and other conditions like gastric ulcers and insomnia. But it can also lead to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, and it can interfere with quality relationships. Not only did vacations lower stress by 10 percent, but subjective happiness was also 15 percent higher in the vacationer group. And relationship effects were likewise observed, with more vacationers reporting benefits in these areas by 14 percent.
The Benefits of a Vacation at Work
Pressures for not taking a vacation do not come from employers alone. In fact, the number one reason people choose not to go on vacation is that they feel unable to leave. Either they believe things will fall apart, or the burdens awaiting them on return would be overwhelming. But the survey showed quite the opposite. Those who went on vacation were 15 percent more motivated on the job and 15 percent more productive. Also, vacationers were similarly 15 percent more likely to express career satisfaction. Thus, taking a vacation offers both employers and employees key benefits that make vacations a really good idea.
Not Taking a Vacation—Is It a Cultural Thing?
Unlike the U.S., other nations have mandated requirements for employers to provide holidays and vacation time to employees. For the United Kingdom, the average annual vacation allowance is 28 days. Likewise, most of Europe permits 25 days of vacation a year. In the U.S., however, the average is less than 10 days. Thus, the reduced vacation time may simply be a reflection of American culture and our associated hard work ethic. But even if this is true, it is clear that we are still missing out on the benefits of a vacation.
Research fails to suggest that this approach is beneficial to our health. The high levels of stress resulting from not taking a vacation have consistently been linked to a lower quality of life. And ultimately, not taking a vacation can deplete our resources, leaving us feeling drained, fatigued, and unhappy. In contrast, the benefits of a vacation add up to enhance the way we feel. And regular vacations impact our level of life satisfaction in the process. In short, taking a vacation is a good thing, and we all should be making this a priority.