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Frequency of Vacations is Also Related to the Risk of Depression

Posted Jul 03 2008 4:12pm
This might seem like a strange time to bring up the subject of vacations. We're all feeling the pinch of ridiculously high gas prices which make taking a trip - whether by car or by plane- increasingly expensive. So a vacation may seem like an almost frivolous expense to contemplate right now.



But it's anything but frivolous. In fact, vacations have a profound effect on your health.



"We feel vacation time or the lack of it affects many Americans, and in many ways has a negative impact on our health", says John de Graaf, executive director of Take Back Your Times, a Seattle-based nonprofit that addresses overwork issues. And considering the role of stress in our health, he's probably right. The US spends 16% of our gross domestic product on health care, but fares dismally compared to other nations in terms of life expectancy, chronic illness and obesity, all of which are profoundly influenced by stress.



In one study, in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the frequency of annual vacations was associated with a reduced risk of death in middle-aged men at high risk of heart disease. And a study of 1500 women published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal suggests that failing to take a break at least once a year brings major psychological health risks.





If you can't quite manage the two to four weeks a year that most of our European friends routinely take as vacation time, consider a few small weekend trips. But the point is not to approach these trips as if you're moving your office to another location. The point of down time is, well, down time. You won't die if you leave the Blackberry home, trust me.



One time, my girlfriend Anja and I took an "in-home" vacation. We told everyone we were going away for a few days, then turned off the computer, the telephone and put our iPhones and Blackberries away. We lived in our lovely home in the hills of Topanga completely isolated and secluded, doing not a stitch of work, and just relaxing, reading and being together. Cost: Nothing. Value: Priceless.



If you take even a few days off with your partner, the rewards to your health (and your relationship) are incalculable. Reconnect. Play. Bond. Try new things. Do nothing (what a concept!). Unwind.



Trust me. You need it. Everyone does.
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