The typical American takes just two to three weeks of vacation a year. Do you fall into this category? If so, new studies suggest that too much work and not enough play may be putting your health in jeopardy.
Dean Obeideallah, a former attorney and political comedian, recently wrote an editorial piece for CNN that argued the life-saving power of vacations.
“Take a vacation or die,” he says. Otherwise, we face an increased risk of heart attack and stress, which Obeideallah argues could eventually kill us.
‘Stress causes a slough of problems such as the inability concentrate, poor sleep and even body rashes,’ he said. And contrary to what people believe, taking time off from work can actually make you more productive at work as studies have shown that people who take vacations sleep better, work better and are generally more alert.
‘Take a week off, take two weeks off, for the sake of your health,’ he says. Because Americans just aren’t getting enough time away.
Obeideallah pointed out that America is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require its employers to give paid vacation. But in the U.K., for example, employers are required to give 28 days paid vacation. In France and Greece, they require 25 days. Germany and Japan fall slightly behind with 20 days. And Mexico and China are at 16 and 10, respectively. But the U.S. comes in dead last with zero days required vacation.
And why is this, you may wonder? Perceived productivity. Many people believe that taking time off work is actually counterproductive because it affords us less hours to work and bring benefit not only to our companies but to our economy as a whole. Perhaps this is the reason why nearly a quarter of Americans don’t take any vacation whatsoever.
So what happens when people have more vacation time? Do they get lazier? Do their economies suffer because of it? While most people would think this is the case, Obeideallah argues otherwise saying the reality is actually quite the opposite.
According to a European study, Greeks work the most hours of anyone in the European Union yet they have the least prosperous economy. “It’s about productivity and efficiency,” he said, “not long hours. Having time for a life besides work is key.”
The bottom line is take time away to relax. And if money is an issue, Obeideallah recommends opting for a camping trip or a stay-cation instead of the French Riviera; anything away from the office that allows you to de-stress. Doing so, he says, will help your heart and even save your life.
And while we’re on the topic of vacations, why not make your next trip a healthy one? In a recent story we published on the unhealthiest countries to visit, we reported that the least healthy vacation spots are Cyprus, Turkey and Portugal as travelers there gained the most weight during vacation. So for a healthier option, try the U.K. where travelers only gained a reported .24 pounds while on vacation. Or visit Germany, Canada and Ireland where travelers there actually lost weight while on vacation.
But whether you gain two pounds or zero pounds on your next trip, the important thing is that you actually take a trip and get away. Otherwise, you may be doing more harm to your health than good.