Less Than Half of Us Go On Vacation Yearly

According to the LA Times, over 50% of Americans go more than a year without a vacation (defined as a week off of work, and more than 100 miles from home). This is the lowest percentage in four decades.

Surveys have found that this is because:

  1. Workers fear they’ll be considered expendable if they take time off;
  2. They’re gunning for a promotion;
  3. They fear the avalanche of work upon their return; or
  4. They think no one else can do their job while they’re gone.

We Take Our Work With Us On Vacation

According to Time, of those who do go on vacation, 61% of us still do some work while we’re there! In this day and age of constant connectivity, it’s hard to completely unplug. 

What Happens To Your Health

Here are some of the consequences of really long work hours, and skipping vacation. (And these are just the ones I could find studies for. I’m sure the list is muuuuuch longer.) 

  • Risk for heart disease goes up. The famous Framingham Study shows that homemakers who take a vacation from being stay-at-home moms every 6 years or less (because let’s face it, most of them take their kids with the wherever they go) have twice the risk of heart attacks compared to those who vacation twice per year or more. Also, regular work days of 10 + hours increase the risk of heart attack by 80% in both sexes.
  • You’re more depressed. Unless you really love your job, long grueling days tend to sap your joy. Compared to those who worked a normal 7-8 hour day, those who regularly work 11 hour shifts have twice the risk of major depression.
  • You get dumber. Long hours make it harder to think straight. This study shows that reasoning and creativity drops as work weeks climb above 55 hours.
  • You’re prone to anxiety and meltdowns. A few weeks ago I wrote on the expose of the Amazon and Facebook workplace. Went into this quite a bit.

What To Do About It

Obviously — take a vacation. But in order to maximize its restorative capacity, choose one that isn’t just lounging on the beach. This study shows that vacations involving learning new skills are especially good for recharging your batteries. 

So go learn a new skill! Take cooking classes. Go on a yoga retreat. Learn to surf or ski. Pick up a new language. Learn to paint. Have an adventure you can take home with you!