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Health & Balance

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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.

Why Americans Skip Vacations continued...

To make things worse, the Expedia survey found that, on average, Americans did not use four days of their vacation time, giving an estimated $76 billion back to their employers.

The top three reasons why survey respondents did not fully use vacation days were as follows:

  • They needed to schedule vacation time in advance (14%)
  • They were too busy at work to get away (11%)
  • They got money back for unused vacation days (10%)

Another analysis showed other reasons for reluctance to take time off. A 2006 survey reported that 16% of workers feel guilty about missing work while on vacation, and 7% actually fear that time off could lead to unemployment.

Technological advances, the transient job market, competition, and globalization have made people seem dispensable in today's corporate world. Weaver says people want to work more in order to prove their effectiveness.

Focus on Productivity

Fear and a strong cultural focus on work are largely responsible for behavior in regard to their job and leisure time, says Helen Friedman, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in St. Louis. "Fear is the motivator -- fear of falling behind in work, fear of being replaced if you don't give 110%," she says. "As a culture, we've evolved to value doing rather than being."

In this country, just being means being lazy as there's no time to just be, Friedman adds. The emphasis is less on character and personality, but more on the job at hand. As an example, upon meeting, one of the first things people ask each other is: "What do you do?"

Halcyone Bohen, PhD, a psychologist in independent practice in Washington, D.C., echoes Friedman's view. "In our culture, work is so highly valued that people are rewarded for it from preschool on, for doing 'a good job,'" she says. "Less value is often put on play and relaxation."

The American focus on productivity is not necessarily all bad as it can give people great satisfaction and fulfillment. Yet it is not the sole element to happiness.

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