Vacation Depression: How to Cope
Psychologists explain how to avoid vacation depression, plus tips on creating a vacation that matches your personality.
We love our vacations -- those great escapes from the humdrum and the
hassles. But if you're depressed, the annual vacation may seem like yet another
obstacle -- especially with soaring gas prices and an unstable economy.
Vacation depression is a fact of life for many people.
You feel guilty spending the money -- and pushing yourself to plan the trip
becomes a burden. Every flat tire, delayed flight, and tantrum (child or
adult) is simply draining. When your vacation ends, there's the depressing
return to the stresses of everyday life.
Vacation and Depression: What the Research Shows
And yet, the data is clear, “you're impacting both physical and mental
health if you don't take vacation time," says John de Graaf, executive
director of Take Back Your Time, an organization that is working with
Capitol Hill to get guaranteed three-week vacation time for every working
Here's the research on vacation, depression, and heart disease:
- One 2005 study from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who
don't take regular vacations were two to three times more likely to be
depressed compared to women who take regular vacations.
- Another study followed 12,338 men for nine years -- and found that men who
didn't take annual vacations had 32% higher risk of death from heart attack and
21% higher risk of death from all causes.
- One study analyzed surveys completed by women enrolled in the 20-year
Framingham Heart Study. Researchers found an eight times higher risk of heart
attack and death among women who rarely took vacations (every six years or
less) -- compared to women who took at least one vacation every two to five
"Vacations are not trivial," says Frank Farley, PhD, a leading
clinical psychologist, professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, and
former president of the American Psychological Association. "In this
workaholic America, we have to treat them as precious stuff ... keep alive the
good feelings and relaxing times."
To help do that, WebMD talked with several psychologists who offer insights
on vacation depression, why vacations help our mental health, plus tips on
creating a rejuvenating break that fits your personality. You'll also find
advice to offset post-vacation depression when the fun ends.
Why Vacations Help Depression
Here's the good news: Vacations give us a chance to recharge our batteries
-- change the pace, alter the scenery, and improve our attitude.
"It's also a really important time for bonding with whoever is important
in your life -- your partner, kids, friends, parents," says Nadine Kaslow,
PhD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Emory University School of
Medicine in Atlanta.
"Relationships are probably the most important thing that keeps people
going, the reason for living for most people," Kaslow tells WebMD.
"They nurture us and we nurture them by having fun together. So often in
our normal workaday life we don't have time in the same way to devote to