Americans Are Taking Everything For Heart Health — Except Vacations

Vacations Might Improve Heart Health
Some evidence suggests people who take vacations live longer with fewer heart problems. Problem is, vacations are rare in America — even for those afforded them. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Some things in life — like a message from Charles Schwab during the Patriots game — are not intended for everyone.

Likewise with startling news about the vacations Americans aren’t taking as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class faces an existential crisis. Business and career website Glassdoor says that among Americans afforded paid vacation time, only half (51 percent) have done so during the past year.

Among those blessed with paid time off, 85 percent told web-polling firm Harris Interactive they’d taken only a little time off during the past year or so, while 15 percent reported taking no time whatsoever. Only one in four of them had managed to maximize their allotted vacation time, with 40 percent taking just a quarter of vacation days given them.

What’s more? Many of those supposed vacation days were spent boosting productivity, as opposed to reaping the much-touted health benefits of relaxing time spent away from work. One in 10 workers spent vacation time interviewing for new jobs, while twice as many did so among younger workers ages 18 to 34.

Even worse, 61 percent of workers said they’d performed work while on vacation. One in four said they’d been contacted by a colleague about work while on vacation, which isn’t so bad. But one in five also reported the boss calling them, too. While a third of such workers said the task couldn’t be handled by someone else, most were motivated by either fear of losing pace or fear of losing their place, with 17 percent fearing the loss of their job.

“It’s clear the word vacation among employers and employees doesn’t mean what it did in the past. Before technology allowed us to be connected 24/7, we were more likely to have actually ‘vacated’ our work for a couple of weeks a year, but now, it appears one full day away is a luxury,” said Rusty Rueff, a spokesman for Glassdoor, which commisioned the study. “While there is always work to be done, employees should be conscious of using time off they’ve earned to recharge.”

While certain life experiences such vacations may bring happiness, they may also bring greater health — over time. Possibly the most convincing evidence to support the health benefits of vacations may lie with the Framingham Heart Study, which tracked more than 12,000 men at risk of heart disease for nine years. Researcher Karen Matthews, of the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center, told NPR the 2009 study convinced her of the benefits of vacation.

"The more frequent the vacations, the longer the men lived," Matthews said.

In fact, the study findings held even after the Pittsburgh team accounted for the higher incomes and education of men who took vacations.

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