The Health Benefits of a Vacation

By Michele C. Hollow @michelechollow
July 20, 2017

The work will still be there when you return. However, taking a vacation break boosts your energy, lowers your stress levels, and makes you a better worker.

Did you know that more than 55 percent of Americans did not take all of their vacation days in 2015? That’s according to a study by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off which found that 42 percent were not taking any vacation.

Also, the amount of time we take is shorter than in the past. We’ve gone from 20 vacation days a year to 16. The days that weren’t taken did not roll over to the following year, and the workers did not receive additional money in exchange for those days.


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“America has been referred to as the ‘no-vacation nation,’” said Leigh Stringer, senior workplace expert at EYP, an architecture and engineering firm and author of “The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line.” “And this constant working is negatively impacting individuals and their employers.”

Why you need a vacation

Stringer points to a documentary by John DeGraaf called Running Out of Time. The documentary focuses on the high cost of not taking a vacation. Women who don’t take regular vacations are anywhere from two to eight times more likely to suffer from depression, and have a 50 percent higher chance of heart disease. For men, the risk of death from a heart attack goes up a third.

“In addition to health benefits,” Stringer said, “vacations help us rest and recuperate from work, give us an opportunity for learning, personal and social development, and allow us to make stronger connections with friends, family, or our community.”

Even the Journal of Happiness presented a study suggesting the health benefits of vacations. The study showed that taking many, shorter vacations is better than taking one long one. “That’s because health and well-being rapidly increase when the vacation starts — after only two days,” Stringer said. “A short vacation can have all the restorative health benefits we need. That said, for vacations to achieve the additional benefits of connection and learning (which can require travel), they need to be longer than a few days.”

How long should your vacation be?

Stringer recommends a two- or three-day vacation for restorative purposes. “Of course, if you’re in a chronically stressful job, it may take a little more time to unplug, reset your sleep schedule, and gain some perspective.”

While the benefits of recharging are evident, it can be hard for some of us to actually take a few days off. Some places reward workers who put in overtime. In some offices, taking a vacation is looked down upon.

If that’s the case for you, give your manager two to three months notice that you’re taking a vacation. Find out what upcoming projects you’ll be needed to complete before you go. If you’re part of a team, talk to your coworkers about sharing the responsibilities and how you can all cover for one another; so when they want to go on vacation, they can leave knowing the work will get done.

Talk to your boss about slow periods. That might be the most opportune time to take your vacation. If it’s constantly busy, and you’ve accrued a lot of vacation days, plan to take one-week vacation instead of three or four weeks off at a time.

If your boss gives you a hard time, explain why vacations are important — that you’ll come back refreshed and eager to tackle the next project. And when you do return from vacation feeling energized, show by example how willing you are to pitch in. You may even start a trend.


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April 06, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell