When was the last time you took a vacation? If you are the type of person who is juggling a career to make ends meet and to reach your ambition, chances are it’s been a long time. In keeping up with the fast paced demand of our career and profession, it can be difficult to squeeze a vacation in our tight schedule. But did you know that new study shows that skipping your can vacations actually make your life shorter?
“If you know someone who doesn’t take vacations and works long hours, he or she may be at risk of cardiovascular disease.” Dr. Timo Strandberg, a professor at the Department of Medicine at the University of Helsinki and co-author of the study, warned.
In his study which collected data of Finnish businessmen over the last four decades, Dr. Strandberg discovered that taking a trip and going on a vacation reduces the risk of untimely death by 37 percent.
His thorough study which began in year 1974 involved a total of 1,222 men born between the years of 1919 to 1934, who became company executives. All of the participating men have at least one factor that may cause cardiovascular disorder, such as: being overweight, a smoking habit, having a high cholesterol, experiencing spiking blood pressure and having a glucose intolerance.
612 participants were assessed and given health advice every four months. They were told to exercise daily, observe a balance and healthy diet, quit smoking, and maintain a healthy and ideal weight. For some, they were also given medicines to regulate their blood pressure and lipids when needed. On the other hand, 610 men did not receive any treatment nor health advice.
From year 1974 to 2004. men who received medical tips and took less than three weeks of vacation annually had a 37 percent higher risk of dying as compared to those who filed and took more than three weeks of leave. Those who did not receive any health advice on the other hand did not have any changes to their risk of dying.
“Shorter vacations and longer working hours are associated with harmful health effects, even mortality. Cause and effect cannot be established, however, and controlled trials are difficult to perform,” Dr. Strandberg said, sharing his conclusion.
What’s even more surprising is that the researchers found out that those who were offered medical advises had higher death rates when they followed up in year 2014. The reason behind it is still troubling the scientists even today.
“We had a hypothesis that stress induced by intensive personal health education and intervention (telling executives to stop smoking, reduce weight, exercise etc.) would be involved, but proving this is difficult because stress was not specifically measured during trial.” Dr. Strandberg explained.
Professor Joep Perk, a spokesman for the European Society of cardiology, said that it is better for people to relax and enjoy their precious life. “Patients…when they have a heart attack, they suddenly become fanatic about their lifestyle. There is a lot of stress, they run around.”
Professor Perk shared raising awareness about the stress and anxiety people experience in trying to change their lifestyle abruptly.“I sometimes wonder whether this is healthy, and this study shows the enormous stress of changing lifestyle may have a bad effect on some people.”
Both researchers believe that it is okay to give medical advice promoting changes with the lifestyle of an individual with health risks. HOWEVER, the vulnerability of an individual to stress and anxiety should also be taken in account.
“My theory is that if you cause stress for vulnerable individuals by attempts of lifestyle modification but simultaneously don’t get sufficient effect on risk factors, harm could ensue,” the esteemed scientist and researcher added.
“Asking 95-year-olds what was the reason they reached 95, almost always the response I get was ‘I enjoyed life, I had a nice time,’” Professor Perk even shared his experience whenever he got the chance to talk with the elderly. “It’s not about chasing risk factors. Don’t forget to enjoy life, you only have one.”
Professor Martin Marshall, a vice chairman of General Practitioners always encourage people to rest and relax whenever they can. “However, whilst GPs and our teams often recommend that patients take some time away from work, or go on holiday if they are stressed, we must also be mindful that this is easier said than done for many patients, who perhaps can’t afford holidays, or simply find it difficult to get time off work.”
True enough, it is hard to take a vacation if you are loaded with tasks and also when you have financial concerns. BUT these two factors are not an excuse not to indulge in relaxation. You can have home service massage, or you can lit scented candles and take your time in the bath, or you can listen to the sound of the waves of the ocean.