A new medical study from Syracuse University led by Bryce Hruska and Brooks Gump revealed the tangible heart-protective effects of going on vacation. We all “feel” the benefits of vacation, but are yet to fully understand the underlying mechanisms behind the health benefits. To assess the health of the participants the researchers monitored markers for metabolic disease. Hruska stated that “metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease”.
Less than half of the 77% of the US workforce who are eligible for paid leave actually take time off for vacation. And 212 million paid vacation days get forfeited in the US each year. Surprisingly, the US doesn’t stipulate mandatory leave for all workers and this could be taking its toll on the health of the US workforce according to recent studies.
In 2017 The Helsinki Businessmen Study concluded that fewer vacations through midlife resulted in poor health outcomes in later life. In another 2009 study, four of the markers for metabolic syndrome – blood pressure, cortisol levels, BMI, and waist circumference were assessed when taking part in enjoyable leisure activities. They were measured on the Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test (PEAT). Higher levels of positive psychosocial states were found in participants. Despite several studies being carried out displaying the benefits of vacationing, the absence of an instrument to reliably measure the beneficial health effects has stunted the ability to compare results.
A “vacation assessment tool” was developed as part of the new 2019 study to eliminate conflicting evidence and “enhance the scientific rigor”, both in this study and future research. They examined both the total amount of vacation episodes and the number of vacation days taken over the past 12 months. Metabolic syndrome was defined using the criteria of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Program III, which uses unobtrusive blood and physical measurements.
A significant decrease of 24% in the chances of suffering from metabolic syndrome was observed in those who took a vacation in the past 12 months. For those participants who took no holidays, their risk for developing metabolic syndrome increased by 46.7%. Interestingly, each additional vacation episode was associated with an 8% decrease in the number of metabolic syndrome symptoms.
If going on vacation increases health benefits (also lowering insurance costs), then let’s enjoy a little time off for the sake of everyone!
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