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Help for the Vacation-Deprived

Experts explain why many Americans aren't taking advantage of the vacation time they're entitled to.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Do you know where your vacation days are? If you're like many Americans, you've allowed unused time off to either collect dust in your employer's file cabinet, to roll over until next year, or to disappear into a black hole.

Or you might have already made your escape earlier in the year, but you squandered some of it checking work email, voicemail, or fielding job-related questions.

The good news is that you've got plenty of company. A 2006 survey revealed that 23% of Americans have checked work email or voice mail while on vacation. The survey also showed that one-third of U.S. adults do not always take all their vacation days.

The bad news: You join many hardworking and vacation-deprived Americans who experience burnout, reduced productivity, diminished creativity, failed relationships, stress, or stress-related ailments such as depression, heart disease, or stomachulcers.

In the U.S. the growing demand for more work hours and the corresponding loss of leisure time in the last two decades is a big crisis, says John Weaver, PsyD, a psychologist and owner of Psychology for Business, a workplace consulting firm based in Brookfield, Wis.

"People are staying at work longer to get ahead more," says Weaver. "To a large degree, there's been an expectation by business owners that this is, in fact, the way that it should be, rather than looking at it and saying that this is somehow out of balance."

Weaver and a few other mental healthmental health, travel, and career experts talked with WebMD, sharing their thoughts about the state of work and vacation time in the U.S. They explained the consequences of having so little time off and gave eight tips for workers in need of a break.

Why Americans Skip Vacations

Compared with other industrialized nations, the U.S. is known to be stingy with vacation time for workers. According to, Americans receive an average of 14 vacation days per year, while the citizens of Canada get 19 days, Great Britain 24, France 39, Germany 27, and Australia 17.

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