Why Taking Vacation Time is More Important Than You Think

3 Min. Read

America’s dogged and determined work culture comes with a noteworthy side effect: the sacrifice of vacation days. According to Project Time Off, research reveals that over half of American employees leave their paid time off unused each year. While the number of vacations days used has increased slightly from a low of 16.8 to 17.4 days per year in 2018, it is still well below the long-term average of 20.3 days per year—a fact that studies suggest takes a toll on employee’s health and well-being.

The Consequences of Skipping Vacation

Why Taking Vacation Time is More Important Than You Think

Vacationing may seem like a luxury, but research reveals that it is a necessity. The consequences of passing up vacation days include increased mental fatigue, job dissatisfaction, anxiety and depression. Additionally, working straight through the year could put your health in peril. A study published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), found that men who were at risk for heart disease and skipped their vacation days were 30% more likely to have a heart attack than those who took extended time off annually.

Another report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed that female employees who throw away vacation days are just as much at risk for health consequences as their male counterparts. Researchers found that women who went six years with only one vacation were eight times more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took two vacations per year. And a study published in the NCBI found that women who vacation frequently are less likely to experience depression, fatigue and anxiety.

The Case for Taking Vacation Time

Why Taking Vacation Time is More Important Than You Think

While missing out on downtime takes a hefty toll, taking advantage of time off comes with a whole list of benefits. Here are just a few of the ways vacationing improves your life:

1) Increased relationship satisfaction

Taking time away from work allows employees the opportunity to reconnect with their romantic partners away from the daily grind. A survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association found that out of those who responded, 86% of the couples who vacationed together reported that the romance was still alive in their relationship and 94% said they felt very close to one another. In general, when couples regularly spend time traveling and exploring together, they feel like they share the same goals, interests and desires which enhances their relationship satisfaction.

2) Extended state of Zen

The benefits of meditation are well researched and reported on, but few know that studies show vacations can have the same effect as a regular meditation practice. Both meditating and taking a break from the workplace significantly lower stress and boost the immune system. Here’s the best news of all: these benefits last up to 10 months after the getaway ends.

Why Taking Vacation Time is More Important Than You Think

3) Happier families

U.S. children with working parents report that their parents are bringing both their work and work-related stress home with them. Additionally, kids report having significant stress of their own. Vacations offer all family members time to relax, decompress, and the opportunity to connect with one another. Without workplace obligations and other daily pressures to focus on, parents are able to shift their attention to their kids’ needs, leading to more familial gratification.

4) Improved health

The impact that taking a regular vacation has on an employee’s health is significant. From the perspective of mental health, time off of work reduces reports of depression and anxiety. Improvements in mental health also play a significant role in improving physical health since elevated stress levels can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, strokes and heart attacks. And while it’s  evident that planning regular getaways should be part of your routine healthcare plan, research suggests workers reap even more health and well-being rewards when vacation time is spent out in nature.

Bottom line, science says: regardless of where you choose to go, whatever you do, maxing out those vacation days matters. Your health and family life depends on them.

Annette Benedetti

Annette Benedetti is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. She is the co-founder of She Explores Life and her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly, Livability and Domino.

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