Vacation Your Way to Better Health!

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

The Healing Power of VacationsRecently, I saw an article about Americans and their vacations. While many other countries mandate four weeks of paid vacations (or more!), many Americans take one week of vacation or less. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the online travel site Expedia, 34% of employed Americans don’t even use all of the vacation days they do get.

But what many people don’t realize is that vacations aren’t just a “nice to have”—they’re essential to your health. This is not propaganda being circulated by travel agents; it's solid fact supported by impeccable reach. 

Two studies have actually quantified the healing power of vacations...

Some of the most compelling study findings on the topic come from two major clinical investigations on cardiovascular disease: the famous Framingham Heart Study, and the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT).

As part of their larger study, Framingham researchers interviewed 749 women ages 45 to 64 that were free of cardiac disease, and then followed them for 20 years. The investigators sorted through demographic factors such as age and psychological factors like tension and anger, and variables like cholesterol, smoking habits, and body mass index. What they found is that a lack of vacations was a predictor of the 20-year incidence of heart attack and death.

Likewise, in the MRFIT study investigators studied nine-year death rates among 12,000 men to evaluate the relative risk for health conditions. They concluded that for middle-aged men increased frequency of annual vacations is associated with a reduction in deaths from any cause.

Those who took regular vacations were 20 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who skipped vacations, and they were 30 percent less likely to die of heart disease. Even when researchers controlled for issues that might have made individuals more or less likely to take a trip—like education and income levels and health status—the correlation between more vacations and fewer deaths held steady.

You might be thinking, in this economy how can I possibly afford a vacation?
Well, come back Monday, and I’ll tell you how to solve that problem, too.

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