If you thought that a healthy diet and exercising is all it takes then you’re in for a surprize. One of the longest follow-up studies in the world has proved that people who take more vacation days generally live longer.
The 40-year study, published by Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, was conducted by the University of Helsinki, Finland and involved more than 1200 businessmen between the ages of 40 and 55. Each participant had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (smoking, high blood pressure, overweight etc.). Participants were randomly placed in one of two groups: an intervention group and a control group. The intervention group was advised every four months (for a total of five years) to exercise, eat healthy foods, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking etc. When health advice was not enough some participants in the intervention group were also prescribed medicine to help lower their blood pressure. Men in the control group received usual healthcare and were not seen by the investigators.
Pretty standard science so far… And of course, as one would expect, when researchers followed up with participants 15 years later people in the intervention group had lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease by a whopping 46%. However… It turned out that more people had died in the intervention group than the control group.
So the researchers followed up again in 2014 (40 years after the study was launched) using national death registers and examined previously unreported baseline data on amounts of work, sleep, and vacation. And there was one factor that stood out the most – vacation. Participants in the intervention group had a 37% higher risk of dying if they took three weeks or less annual vacation compared to those who took more than three weeks.
One of the professors said: “The harm caused by the intensive lifestyle regime was concentrated in a subgroup of men with shorter yearly vacation time. In our study, men with shorter vacations worked more and slept less than those who took longer vacations. This stressful lifestyle may have overruled any benefit of the intervention. We think the intervention itself may also have had an adverse psychological effect on these men by adding stress to their lives.”
The researchers emphasized that the results from this study do by no means suggest that health education is “harmful” to one’s health. “Rather, they suggest that stress reduction is an essential part of programs aimed at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
So what does this tell us?
1. Go and take that vacation! It might be beneficial to even take unpaid days off if you’re not getting more than 3 paid weeks off from your employer. Travel is important and you should probably do more of it.
2. Relax over the weekends… Use them for mini vacations and take your mind off work. Have an adventure, Questful can help 🙂
3. Engaging in stress relieving activities like meditation, yoga etc. can be beneficial as well.
4. A healthy and active lifestyle is still important, don’t forget about that.