That could be the slogan for what a lot of Americans consider a
vacation. But recent research and a growing cadre of experts suggest that the
American penchant for all work and no play could be bad for your health.
Atherosclerosis starts early and progresses throughout life. You can't see
or feel it, but in most of us the process is already under way.
The plaques of atherosclerosis can grow to become blood vessel blockages. If
a plaque ruptures, the sudden blood clot causes a heart attack or stroke.
Atherosclerosis is common, unpredictable, and potentially deadly. Is there
any good news? Because atherosclerosis takes decades to progress, the process
can be slowed down at any point, reducing the risk.
"We need to take vacations seriously," says Alan Muney,
MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Oxford Health Plans
Inc. "While we readily accept that getting immunizations, taking vitamins,
or getting mammograms and pap smears is good preventive medicine, something as
simple as taking a vacation is not accepted."
Two recent surveys appear to bear him out. One survey conducted
by Oxford Health Plans of more than 600 men and women shows that about one in
five people report feeling so overworked that they are unable to use up all of
their allotted vacation time.
The survey showed that while most employers make it easy to
keep medical appointments (70%) and return to work after illness (68%), other
companies exude a corporate culture that discourages healthy behavior,
according to the Oxford survey.
Approximately 19% of survey respondents said workplace
pressures make them feel they must attend work even when injured or sick; 17%
said it is difficult to take time off or leave work in an emergency, and 8%
believe that if they were to become seriously ill they would be fired or
The survey also showed that 14% of respondents feel company
management only promotes people who habitually work late, according to
Another survey of 1,100 company executives by the American
Management Association, or AMA, found similar results. It showed that only
about a third of executives would get away from work for more than a week at a
What's more, when American executives do take vacation, they
are very liable to take their work with them -- checking email and voice mail
regularly and using cell phones. And more and more people are actually taking
work along with them.
Like the Oxford survey, the AMA survey found that although
one-quarter of executives have earned more than two weeks off, only 7% would
actually use the time this summer.
Both surveys seem to underscore what Muney calls a
"cultural belief that not working is a bad thing." And he contrasts
that belief with European countries where it is the norm for workers to have
three or more weeks of vacation a year.
"When we do take vacation, we seem to take these
long-weekend type approaches that may or may not add up to having enough time
to unwind," Muney tells WebMD.
Muney says the Oxford survey was prompted by, among other
things, a study appearing in the September-October 2000 edition of the medical
journal Psychosomatic Medicine, showing that vacationing could help
prevent heart disease.