If you’re looking for one more reason (excuse) to make more time to travel, think about your health. A recent article in Prevention Magazine reminds readers of data from the Framingham Heart Study, which found that women who didn’t take vacations (fewer than one every six years) were at eight times higher risk of developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack than those who did (traveling at least two times a year.) Originally published 20 years ago, the study controlled for variables such as obesity, diabetes, smoking and income (although not for socio-economic status).
A 2000 study, reported several years ago in the New York Times, looked at 12,000 men over a period of nine years who were at high risk for coronary heart disease. The researchers found that those who didn’t take annual vacations were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack and 21% more likely to die from other causes.
Although the precise physiological mechanisms linking fewer vacations with increased risk of death are unknown, a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggests some possible mechanisms explaining the correlation:
1) Vacations reduce the negative impact of ongoing stressors (for example, those at home and in the workplace) and reduced “anticipated threats.”
2) Vacations enhance opportunities both for social contact with friends and/or family and for physical activity.
Ironically, in terms of the mental payoff of vacation travel, the positive effect is anticipatory: It’s greatest before your getaway. A study of 1530 adults in the Netherland found that happiness scores surged in the 8-week period prior to vacation.
After the trip, the differences in happiness scores between those who took vacations and those who didn’t was modest, only lasted two-weeks, and only held for those who took relaxing vacations. This isn’t surprising. We’ve all experienced the short afterglow of a vacation that is lost as soon as we get re-immersed in life’s daily grind.
The take-away message from the Dutch researchers is to stagger a greater number of shorter vacations to get the maximum emotional benefit—preferably relaxing ones that allow you to be untethered from the stress at home.
Other articles on More Time To Travel that suggest ways to find more time to travel: