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  • Think Upstream

The health benefits of taking a vacation

Trish Hennessy

In 2006, when I was co-founding the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ national income inequality project, we did focus groups asking Canadians to tell us what middle class means to them.

They said:

Being able to go out for lunch during the workweek and not worry about the mortgage.

Being able to put the kids into hockey, ballet, soccer, music.

Being able to take a family vacation.

It was fascinating. Being middle class had less to do with a defined household income range and more to do with the ability to afford the extras: no sad desk lunch, extracurricular activities for the kids, and the ability to pack up the car and just get away.

Gone fishin’.

I’ve never understood why some employers skimp on vacation time for their employees. Taking a vacation is good for everyone.

Expedia’s annual vacation deprivation index shows that after they took a vacation, “Canadians felt better about themselves, held more confidence, and also believed they were better able to solve problems. … Though life gets busy, taking time for yourself is so important for our well-being,” says work-life balance expert Beverly Beuermann-King.

And yet Canadians don’t tend to take the full amount of vacation time allotted to them (guilty as charged!). On average, Canadians get 17 days of vacation a year but they leave two of them on the table.

This isn’t an ad for Expedia but take a look at the highlights from their latest vacation deprivation survey and please tell me you’ll start planning your vacation asap:

  • 54% of Canadians feel vacation deprived.

  • Ontarians are the most vacation deprived (57%) while the Atlantic region is the least vacation deprived (44%)—Maritimers know how to get it done!

  • Food and beverage workers, those who work in the retail sector, and those who work in real estate report that they are the most vacation deprived.

So you want a longer vacation and your boss won’t let you? Show the boss this: almost 90 per cent of respondents in the Expedia survey said that vacations give them a chance to hit the "reset button" on their stress and anxiety.

“Almost ninety per cent (87%) of Canadians return from a vacation feeling less anxious and worried, but instead more able to take on the next challenge.”

There are other health benefits.

Middle-aged men who take vacations are less likely to die of heart disease.

Researchers in New Zealand found that people who go on vacation sleep better.

A University of Calgary study showed high-stressed lawyers who take vacations and do leisure activities experience less depression.

Of course, the ability to go on a holiday is structurally determined by the social determinants of health. Can you afford to go away? Are you able to travel? Not everyone can. Or wants to. Most of my vacations are spent at home, entering an alternate universe by digging through my book pile.

Whether it’s a camping or glamping trip, a few weeks at the lake, or a trip to a fabulous city (like Quebec City, where I’m soon headed with loved ones), or reading a good novel this summer—you’ve earned some downtime.

Need more encouragement to go on a holiday? I’ve got links below for you.

Feed Your Head


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