A Vacation Away Keeps the Doctor at Bay
Surveys Show Americans Don't Use Their Leave Time
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.
In that study, conducted by Brooks Gump, PhD, of the department
of psychology at the State University of New York at Oswego, the frequency of
vacationing was studied among more than 12,000 men at high risk for heart
disease over a nine-year period. Results showed that men who took vacations had
significantly less risk of dying from heart disease -- or any other condition
-- than men who did not.
Muney says the results suggest that American employers who make
it a practice to monitor employees who take too much time off, would do well to
also monitor those who work too much. It could save them money in healthcare
costs, he says.
Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, assistant clinical professor
of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington,
says the Psychosomatic Medicine study confirms his own belief that too
much work and not enough play is bad for the heart. "When my
patients tell me they can't afford to take a vacation, I tell them they can't
afford not to," he tells WebMD.
Sinatra and Muney both agree that what you do on your vacation
is not nearly so important as what you don't do. "Don't take your busy life
along with you," Sinatra says. "A vacation should truly be a
And Muney says, "The message should be: Leave your laptop
Both Sinatra and Muney say that what makes for a healthy
vacation is really a holiday of the mind. Your vacation could be in the
backyard watching the grass grow, as long as you stay there long enough to
forget about work, they say.