The Current

Benefits from vacation short-lived, research suggests

As summer comes to a close, The Current examines the latest research on the long-term benefits of taking time off. What is the ideal length of a holiday? Does a staycation have the same effect as a vacation abroad?
In longer vacations, Jessica DeBloom says her research found that the feeling of health and well-being peaked on the eighth day. (Nick Kenrick/flickr cc)

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As September leads into fall, The Current looks at the importance of vacations and what the science says about how long that post-holiday glow lasts?

Research suggests the length of vacation has little impact on the increase of health and well-being, shorter vacations are just as effective as longer ones. (Juho Holmi/flickr cc)

Jessica de Bloom has dedicated herself to researching the impact vacations have on us. She's a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Research in Finland.

De Bloom tells The Current's summer host Robyn Bresnahan that after following people on a three-week vacation, health and well-being benefits take about eight days to peak. She shares other results from her research to help people get the best out of vacation.

Is it better to take one long vacation or take mini vacations throughout the year?

Overall, there's an increase in health and well-being no matter how long or what type of vacation you have. However, for shorter holidays, the effects are short-lived. There are also some risk associated with saving for one big vacation because if you fall sick or something goes wrong, the opportunity is gone. De Bloom suggests spreading out vacations, if possible.

How long after a holiday do the health and wellness benefits last?

While earlier studies point to people feeling "a little bit better" before the holidays for about two to four weeks, de Bloom's research shows benefits disappeared in the first week people were back at work.

There's also research that shows people who don't go on holidays, have a decrease in well-being and a higher risk of heart attack.

Does a staycation have the same effect as a vacation abroad?

Turns out there's not much research on staycations. But studies do show that there's no difference going away on a trip or staying home. De Bloom says being a tourist in your own hometown can bring you the benefits of a vacation and suggests doing things you enjoy on a holiday, like swimming.

Why do people not use all their vacation days?

DeBloom says often people are too busy at work to take vacation days they have earned. As well, sometimes people are rewarded for not taking them. According to Beverly Beuermann-King, a wellness strategist, almost half of Canadians surveyed say they feel vacation-deprived. Beuermann-King points out, the irony is they are not taking at least two days of earned vacation from work.

Which province is the best at taking all their vacation days?

The answer really fluctuates depending on how the economy is doing. Beuermann-King tells Bresnahan Ontario seems to be one of the most vacation-deprived provinces as well as B.C. And the East Coast wins at doing vacations right. Beuermann-King says East Coasters "tend to have a better, almost European sense of work life balance."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post - including thoughts on vacation from author Roy MacGregor.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.