The week in silly studies: Going on vacation is good for your health

Jordan Chittley
Geekquinox
February 12, 2013

Anyone who spends most of their days going to work knows the benefits of a vacation and knows being on vacation is considerably better than being at work.

But two groups wanted to confirm this was the case so they conducted a study — and it turns out that vacation is good. The study proves that vacations actually improve sleep, lower blood pressure and help weight loss. And these positive effects can last for months after the vacation ends.

The survey, called the Holiday Health Experiment, was conducted by tour operator Kuoni and Nuffield Health, the U.K.'s largest health care charity. Not surprisingly, the report suggests people should take all of their available vacation days and go somewhere relaxing.

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I just wish I had known they were conducting a study like this so I could have signed up. But the group received more than 10,000 applicants for just 12 spots in the study, so the odds of me getting one of those spots were pretty slim. Those selected underwent a health assessment, including monitoring their heart, sleep patterns and resilience to stress. Half of the 12 were then sent on a two-week holiday either to Thailand, Peru or the Maldives while the other half stayed home and worked. Participants were monitored for a three-day period during the holiday and after the two-week period of either work or vacation.

"It's apparent from our results that the majority of people feel happier, more rested and much less stressed because of their vacations," Psychotherapist Christine Webber, who carried out the tests, told the Daily Mail. "But, even more importantly, I have discovered that these benefits continue well past the vacation — in fact, for months afterwards."

The vacationing participants went on three different types of vacations with Webber finding people don't need to lie on a beach to relax and receive the health benefits. "The couple who went on the busiest holiday has the most long-lasting reduction in stress," she said.

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The average vacationer saw their blood pressure drop six per cent while the average person who stayed at home saw theirs rise by two per cent. For those on vacation, sleep improved by 17 per cent, while those at home saw sleep deteriorate by 14 per cent. This seems like common sense because not having to hear that alarm clock blast at 6 a.m. can do great things for sleep.

The study notes as many as a third of workers don't take their full vacation and it urges people to do so.

In 2010, a Dutch study also found vacations to be beneficial, finding that the anticipation is one of the biggest reasons for a boost in happiness. However, that study found that after the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people, according to The New York Times.

Despite the contradiction in the two studies, I think it's safe to say vacations are definitely good for everyone. So while we may say this study is silly, it's far from silly if you are looking for a reason to get away.

The week in silly studies is a feature that appears each Tuesday.
It is not intended to mock real science.

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