Longer vacations could extend your life, according to a new study from the European Society of Cardiology.
The research, which was conducted by the University of Helsinki, Finland over 40 years, followed 1,222 middle-aged male executives born between 1919 and 1934 who had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. About half of them (610) were given advice about how to improve their health every four months, such as exercising regularly to lose weight. And researchers found that in this group, the men who took just three weeks or less of vacation each year had a 37 percent greater chance of dying compared to those who took more than three weeks off.
That may be because the men who took shorter vacations ended up working more and sleeping less, which upped their stress levels and harmed their health. “This stressful lifestyle may have overruled any benefit of the intervention,” said University of Helsinki Professor Timo Strandberg in the report.
Plus, a recent study from the Allianz Global Assistance Insurance company found that Americans who think vacation is important but still were not confident that they would take one this year, were almost two times more likely (30.4 percent) to show signs of moderate depression compared to the national average (23 percent). Those who were confident that they would take a vacation this year only had a 22.3 percent chance of showing moderate depression signs, in comparison.
The good news is, Americans are getting somewhat better at taking time off than they have in the past. A recent survey from Project: Time Off found that US workers took an average 17.2 days of vacation last year, which is nearly a half-day jump (.4 days) from 2016. Although tiny, this bump marks the highest level of American time off usage since 2013 and a more than full-day increase since bottoming out at just 16 days in 2014 — which is proof that small progress is being made, at least, when it comes to taking a well-deserved break.
“Even though it’s not much, people are feeling more confident to take off because employers are understanding that vacation time is an important benefit that can improve creativity, increase productivity, innovation and retention,” Katie Denis, Vice President of Project: Time Off, told Moneyish.
But most employees (52 percent) still reported having unused vacation days at the end of the year, which was only slightly better than the 54 percent in 2016. Americans forfeited 212 million paid vacation days last year, which is equivalent to $62.2 billion in lost benefits. That means employees effectively donated an average of $561 in work time apiece to their employers in 2017.
Denis says this is because there’s still stigma attached to missing work. “Everything that stopped people from using their days is related to workplace pressure,” she explained. “People are worried about looking less dedicated.”
And as a result, many getting more stressed. “Research shows that a third of workers say that they are extremely stressed out,” Michael Erwin, senior career advisor at CareerBuilder.com, told Moneyish. “So taking vacation is a great way for you take a step away from your job and recharge and get those creative juices working again, so when you come back, you’re feeling excited about being there and you’re going to be a more productive worker.”
Yet an Associated Press poll last year found that 43 percent of Americans didn’t plan to take a vacation that summer. And in 2016, those that did take off didn’t really get away, since 61 percent admitted to still working or checking in with the office.
Why is everyone staying put? About half can’t afford to take a trip, the AP found in its report, especially since 41 percent of working Americans said they don’t get paid vacation time their employers. But another 11 percent said they can’t miss the time off from work.
Here are some other ways spending some time away from your desk can improve your life:
It reduces stress.
More than half of Americans (53 percent) are burned out and overworked, according to a survey by Staples Advantage. And the cure for that is rest. Researchers from the State University of New York at Oswego found men ages 35 to 57 who didn’t take at least one week-long vacation per year suffered a 30 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease. Work martyrs are also at risk for stress-related issues like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The longer you work, the less productive you get.
Research shows that employee productivity drops after a 50-hour work-week and plummets after 55 hours. And an internal study done by the Ernst & Young accounting firm found that for each additional 10 hours that an employee took for vacation, his or her performance review was 8% higher the next year.
You could make more money.
Those who take all of their vacay have a 6.5 percent better chance of getting a promotion or a raise than those who don’t take 11 or more days of their paid time, according to Project: Time Off. So work martyrs don’t have anything to lose by getting away – but could have everything to gain. Vacations inspire great ideas. Getting away from the daily grind can give you the next Big Idea to bring back to work. A 2008 study found that multicultural experiences enhance creativity and generate ideas. Howard Schultz had the brainstorm for Starbucks during a 1983 trip to Italy. Lin-Manuel Miranda came up with the Broadway smash “Hamilton” while vacationing in Mexico to recharge from his previous hit “In The Heights.”