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Taking your next vacation may be a life-or-death decision. Think carefully if you’re tempted to skip it. Science proves that downtime saves lives!
In some corporate cultures, you’re regarded as a hero if you never take leave. You’re held up as the stalwart of productivity and commitment. You have the mental stamina and emotional staying power of legends. Maybe so, for a tiny majority, but for the vast majority, I can tell you for a fact, this is just plain stupid!
First there is the question of productivity. It is simply not possible for us to work at peak for endless periods of time. Biologically, our systems are built to withstand stress, only if there are recuperative periods for compensation and repair. Ask any athlete. This is the training cycle. Stress your muscles and your physiology, then pause while it recovers. When we honor this design, we not only perform for longer periods, but actually enhance our performance over time.
Several years ago, scientists posed a more profound challenge. Researchers from the State University of New York (SUNY) asked the question: “could skipping vacations put your life at risk”?
To answer this question, they followed a large group of middle-aged men at high risk for heart disease for almost ten years. Their results proved in dramatic fashion the value of rest and recuperation.
Men who took fewer vacations were 30% more likely to die from heart disease such as heart attacks than those who took more vacations. The influence of this increase in cardiovascular mortality was so pronounced that the overall death rate (including death from other causes such as cancer) was 20% higher in those who took fewer vacations. Although this study evaluated only middle-aged men, there is no reason to believe that this would not be true for women too.
Although there were too few accidents to be confident that the results can be extrapolated to the general population, I was fascinated to see that the risk of fatal accidents was 35% higher in those who worked through their vacations. This leaves me wondering about the overall mental state of these over-committed individuals. I know from personal experience that I make more mistakes when I am over-worked and worn out. I hadn’t considered how serious this might be!
Take your vacations! You need your down-time to recharge physically, mentally and emotionally. The upside? Regular vacations reduce your risk of death by as much as one fifth. A tiny price to pay to secure a long, healthy and happy life!