Whether you’re a beach bum, an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, or a history buff, we can all agree that vacations refresh us, while creating lifelong memories.

Unfortunately, the vacation habits and work-life balance of Americans looks dismal. In 2013, U.S. workers lost a total of 169 million days of paid time off in 2013. And even though Americans earn approximately 21 days of paid time off each year, workers reported only using half of their eligible vacation time, according to a 2014 survey. Further, 15 percent of employees took no paid time off during a year.

Not only are Americans shortchanging themselves on downtime, quality family time, and a break from the office, but they are screwing themselves out of some serious psychological and physical health benefits.

All Work and No Play Hazardous to Mental Health

A number of studies link travel with improved health and overall wellbeing.

First and foremost, traveling improves mental health. A 2005 study demonstrated that women who took regular vacations were less likely to be tense and tired, and were more satisfied with their marriages. More specifically, the odds of depression were two to three times higher among women who vacationed less than every two years. Another study revealed that traveling and taking part in leisure activities contributed to a more positive mindset, thus lowering depression levels.

Besides depression, taking a vacation helped alleviate stress, as demonstrated in a study on busy lawyers. The American Psychological Association found in its 2013 survey that getting away from the pressures of life and taking vacations helped people manage stress and negative emotions. Lower stress levels also translated to better immunity to ward off illnesses.

Travel More, Live Longer, Healthier

If these psychological benefits don’t prompt you to pack your bags and opt out of the hamster wheel for a week or two, here’s stronger ammo.

After evaluating 12,000 men during a nine-year period, researchers found that the risk of dying of any cause was 17 percent higher among men who did not take annual vacations. Further, the risk of heart disease was 29 percent higher for these non-vacationing men.

Women are not immune to the cardiovascular risk of vacation deprivation. A 20-year analysis found that women who vacationed once, every six years or less, were almost eight times as likely to have a heart attack as compared with women who vacationed once every two years.

The list of benefits does not stop there. How about lowering your blood pressure, improving your sleep quality, and shrinking your waistline? Take a vacation and see results like these. What are you waiting for?

SOURCES (in order of appearance)

https://www.ustravel.org/news/press-releases/working-free-us-workforce-forfeits-524-billion-time-benefits-annually

https://www.glassdoor.com/press/glassdoor-survey-reveals-average-american-employee-takes-earned-vacationpaid-time-61-report-working-vacation/

https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/_WMS/publications/…/20.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863117/

http://hum.sagepub.com/content/62/2/195.abstract

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/full-report.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11020089

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/135/8/854.short


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