Life

From reduced heart disease to better mental health, the science behind why holidays are truly essential

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Amy Lewis
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Holidays are good for us, right? Of course they are. A chance to relax and unwind, a well deserved break from it all. But do you know just exactly why holidays are good for us? What kicking back for a week or so can really do for your health?

We decided to investigate.

Plenty of the health benefits that come with checking out of work for a week are, to a certain extent, obvious. Relaxation is good for your stress levels, of course, and taking a break will help you get the physical rest and recuperation that a typical weekend is too brief to afford.

But along with the assumed benefits, there’s also a whole raft of other health pluses that come with taking regular vacations. You’ll reduce your risk of heart disease for one.

Woman relaxing in a hammock on holiday

A 2000 study tracked the health of a 12,000 people at high risk of heart problems over a nine year period. Those who took at least one holiday a year were found to be thirty per cent less likely to suffer from a heart attack, and were considered to be in better health generally.

Another study, published in 1991, compared the risk of heart attack between two groups of female homeworkers. The first took time off at least twice a year, whereas the second group admitted to taking a vacation once every six years. The data analysis found that women in the latter group were twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack or fatal coronary problem.

It’s not just your body that’ll benefit however. Your mind will also reap the many rewards of time off, and your mental health may in fact benefit more greatly than your physical health. Especially if you often work long hours.

Woman meditating on the beach at sunset

In a 2012 study researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that people who regularly work 11-hour days, rather than the standard nine to five, are more than twice as likely to experience a major depressive episode, even if they have never suffered with previous mental issues. Regular vacation time however, can help to combat this kind of mental burn out.

Holidays are also thought to improve the quality of your work, as indicated by a 2012 University of California study, which found that participants were far better at coming up with creative solutions to problems after letting their minds wander for a short time.

And if you need any more convincing, check this out. A 2013 Uppsala University (Sweden) study found that people who take regular vacations not only have better mental health themselves, but also help to boost the mental health of those around them, reducing feelings of depression.

Better physical health, improved mental health, reduced stress and a better colleague? Sounds like we all need to take holidays a lot more seriously.

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Amy Lewis

Amy Lewis is a freelance writer and editor, a lover of strong tea, equally strong eyebrows, a collector of facial oils and a cat meme enthusiast. She covers everything from beauty and fashion to feminism and travel.

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