I hope you are reading this on your vacation. If you are not presently on vacation, then maybe this will cause you to think about your upcoming vacation. If neither of these applies, then please, please tell me that you are fondly remembering the vacation from which you just recently returned. Summer is the time for a vacation and it is very important that you take a vacation. There’s medical evidence to support this.

Think about how your stress level is reduced when you are on vacation. Some Canadian evidence for this comes from the Canadian Bar Association, who regularly publish articles urging members not to forget their vacations and to remind them of the many benefits of a holiday.

As a physician, I must say I had a harder time finding studies or even articles emphasizing the reasons that doctors need to take vacations. The closest I came were articles like this one on rules to follow when you are going to be away from the office. For other workers, it’s easy to find articles about the value of vacations for stress reduction. There are numerous articles on how much leave students from kindergarten through university need in the summer but there is never any doubt raised as to the stress-reduction value of some vacation in the summer.

Various studies can be found that show a reduction of heart disease in both men and women who take vacations, a very specific benefit. A very good general article on all the health benefits linked to vacations is this one from Psychosomatic Medicine. It is a bit dated but it is inclusive and more comprehensive than other articles these authors have written more recently. I give these articles to residents and medical students when they are on service with me.

There are two other types of studies produced by interested parties about why vacations are necessary. The first type are the studies that demonstrate how productivity improves after being on holiday and the second shows how time away, especially away from home, is good for creativity.

The companies that assist employers and insurance companies in improving productivity have produced studies that link robust vacation policies with improved productivity. This article from the Harvard Business Review summarizes some work regarding this, but the article also references the studies which demonstrate this fact. The problem is that the idea that taking more and better vacations improves productivity is counterintuitive to many employers and so we don’t always see businesses taking advantage of this knowledge. Ironically, it almost seems as though workers in North America are not convinced of this either since many of us do not use all our vacation days. One article I read noted that Canadians on average leave 3 of their vacation days unused, This amounts to 31 million unused vacation days across Canada! The same article notes that this does amount to $5.5 billion extra for an employer, which could offset their productivity concerns.
The studies that show improved creativity being related to vacation are the work of Dr. Adam Galinsky, a Professor at the Columbia Business School. This seems to be linked to travel particularly, but these would be good studies to use to convince employers and legislators that holidays help further the innovation that is presently so important for ongoing success.

All these health-related reasons for taking a vacation do bring us back to my main point, which is that you must take a holiday this summer. Paddle in the ocean, go “glamping”, go to a Farmer’s Market. Take a lawn chair into your own backyard or a nearby park and read a magazine or book. It will be good for you. You’ll reduce your stress level and your chances of heart disease. All these benefits for you will also benefit your family – if you can’t take a vacation for yourself, take one for your partner and kids.

Then, if you feel like it, please tell us what you did and where you went. I’m always looking for ideas. The picture below was taken of me in a botanical garden in Florida – there is mothing that rejuvenates me more than a day spent in a beautiful botanical garden. Although I must admit that visiting gardens has been better for my health than that of my garden.

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