Aug. 13, 2011 — -- Rae and Bruce Hostetler not only work very hard, they also relax just as well. Numerous vacations help the suburban Indianapolis couple to maintain their health and emotional well-being -- and it's no surprise to health care professionals.
"Rest, relaxation, and stress reduction are very important for people's well-being and health. This can be accomplished through daily activities, such as exercise and meditation, but vacation is an important part of this as well," said primary care physician Natasha Withers from One Medical Group in New York. Withers lists a decreased risk of heart disease and improved reaction times as some of the benefits from taking some time off.
"We also know that the mind is very powerful and can help with healing, so a rested, relaxed mind is able to help the body heal better," said Withers.
Psychologists echo the value of vacations for the mind.
"The impact that taking a vacation has on one's mental health is profound," said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in stress and relationship management. "Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out."
The Hostetlers combined short and long breaks in 2010 and 2011 that included a cruise, a ski trip, two beach trips, a weekend in Chicago, and have another cruise trip scheduled this upcoming fall. Counting the weekend days that buffer some trips, they'll have been on vacation for 38 days since October of last year.
But they are not the norm among full-time working Americans.
The online travel agency Expedia conducted a survey about vacation time in 2010, and according to their data the average American earned 18 vacation days -- but only used 14 of them. Every European country included in the survey reported both more vacation days earned and used. France topped the list, with the average worker earning 37 vacation days and using all but two of them. And according to Expedia's data, only 38 percent of Americans said they used all of their vacation time, compared to 63 percent of French respondents.