How Vacations Make You Healthier

a prescription for travel

How Vacations Make You Healthier

When was the last time your doctor advised you to jet off to Paris? Languish on the beaches of Hawaii? Book a ski holiday? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Research is revealing that, like a glass of wine, a vacation is more than an indulgence—it’s good for your health.  

Evidence for this? Consider, for one, a recent study of women in Wisconsin. Researchers discovered that the less often subjects took vacations, the more likely they were to experience depression, fatigue, and marital dissatisfaction.

More alarming is the research that connects skipping vacations with heart disease. A large study performed over nine years examined more than 12,000 middle-aged men at high risk for heart disease. They found that the men who neglected to take vacations had a significantly increased risk of dying, and in particular, dying from heart disease.

A study done in Framingham, this time with female subjects, showed similar trends. Women who took fewer vacations experienced more heart attacks.

On the flip side, certain health benefits have been associated with vacations. Decreased burnout, increased work efficiency, increased life satisfaction, and improved intellectual functioning.

Of course there’s the stress thing. It makes intuitive sense that without a decompressing vacation, your stress level will rise. And stress is well-documented to wreak havoc on your health. As stress rises, energy dips and illness takes root. Stress can cause myriad problems: headaches, sleep problems, digestive upset, and frequent infections.

So given all this, doesn’t it seem logical that everyone would be taking as many vacations as possible? Well, it turns out that many of us, here in Canada, neglect to take our allotted vacation time. A study by Ipsos-Reid determined that, each year, Canadian employees don’t take the equivalent of 41 million vacation days that they’re owed.

Unused vacation time—why? There are many factors at play, I’m sure. Workaholism, pressure from managers, reluctance to break away from routine. Also? It’s difficult to find the time in your schedule. And let’s not forget the financial barrier: travelling is expensive!

And…for us moms, how about: it’s just not that relaxing to take a vacation with your kids.

My favourite quote on this subject comes from Claire Dunphy, in the show Modern Family. When the whole fam went to Hawaii, and she couldn’t relax, her explanation was this: I'm a mom travelling with her kids. It's not a vacation, it's a business trip.


I’m about to take one of those “business trips” myself, three weeks in Europe with my husband and our two boys, aged 7 and 2. Yes, wish me luck. Fun? You bet. Relaxing? Not likely.

Still, it’s a change of pace, a change of scenery. And as hectic as it is, I always find vacations to be one of the best ways to bond together as a family. And that makes it all worthwhile.

And, since I’ll be doing myself some good by taking that long-awaited vacation, I think I’ll double my health benefit and open a good bottle of French wine upon arrival. And definitely have some coffee—or café au lait to be exact—coffee is good for you too, did you know? And then there’s Belgian chocolate

Hmm. Maybe I won’t come back.