Prescription For Fun: How A Vacation Can Be Just What The Doctor Ordered

For most people, the word “vacation” brings to mind vivid images of rest and relaxation. Planning a vacation is an exercise most people perform willingly. However, despite the obvious pleasure most people derive from vacation, American employers continue to offer meager vacation benefits when compared to European countries. A study at the Marshfield Clinic found that women, on average, take one vacation every six years. Other large studies reported that average American workers receive only 10 days of paid vacation, while European workers are typically allowed one month of paid leave. Even more fascinating, Americans tend to underuse the minimal vacation time they are allotted.

There is mounting medical evidence to indicate that taking ample vacation time is extremely rejuvenating, and the evidence also indicates that deferring vacation can have significant and detrimental impact on one’s psychological and physical well-being. With this evidence in mind, here is a list of health benefits that a relaxing vacation can provide:

1. Relief from Chronic Stress

Vacations are remarkably effective in interrupting the vicious cycle of work and stress. The change of environment, coupled with new and stimulating experiences, can diminish or eliminate mental fatigue and help you to feel invigorated and refreshed.

2. Lower Blood Pressure

It’s a fact that both mental and physical rest have a positive effect on your cardiovascular system; taking a break from the demands of your job can result in a lower level of stress hormones in your bloodstream. Interruption of the “fight or flight” response—your body’s automatic reaction to stressful situations—allows your blood pressure to recover to a more normal level.

3. Reduction in the Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease

Examination of the results of the landmark Framingham study reveals that the men and women in the study who took vacations regularly lived longer, healthier lives than those who took only occasional vacations. In fact, the data suggest that the males who took frequent vacations were 32 percent less likely to succumb to heart attacks than those who did not vacation regularly. Females had even better outcomes; those who took frequent vacations were an impressive 50 percent less likely to suffer a cardiovascular event than their less-rested counterparts.

4. Improved Quality of Life

Quality of life refers to the many physical and psychological factors that affect you as you embark upon your daily routine. The nature of your relationship with your family, your level of physical and emotional distress, your level of situational satisfaction, and your dominant mood are all factors that can be included in a discussion of quality of life. People who take frequent vacations are known to report a better quality of life than those who limit their vacation time; frequent vacations are also effective in diminishing or eliminating depression.

Many people in the United States view their occupations as life-defining. If you identify strongly with your job, you may be reluctant to spend any significant time away from your office. Ironically, taking more time off may make you a more effective and productive employee. In light of current findings, using all of your available vacation time appears to be an excellent investment in your health, your quality of life, and your job performance.

Walter Partin blogs about health management, including advice on how to live a healthier lifestyle. If you are considering a career in health management or administration, you might consider applying for a masters in health administration degree at or