Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Healthy Vacation

By David Loren Sullivan

I need to take a vacation! There might be more underlying this statement than most people realize. Recently, studies have shown that your health may depend on it.

According to the Conference Board, a firm specializing in private research, the number of Americans who will take a vacation within six months is the lowest in thirty years. 39% of the respondents who took their standard consumer survey were also not considering travel next year -- a low since 1978. Public health consultants believe this is a mistake.

We need a break from the all-time high levels of stress and job uncertainty. A visionary health research project since 1948, known as the Framingham Heart Study, has made major scientific contributions toward identifying risk factors for heart disease. The project assessed and studied twenty years of questionnaires over three generations. According to the data, women who took vacations once in six years or less were near eight times more susceptible to developing heart disease or having a heart attack.

The relationship between lifestyle and stress is clear. Another study released in 2000 that involved 12,000 men over nine years had parallel results. Those men who did not take a vacation at least once a year increased their risk of death from a heart attack by 33% while also increasing their risk of death from other causes by 21%. The results also indicate that mental health is affected by vacations. Scientists at the Marshfield Clinic of Wisconsin report an increased rate of depression with a decrease in the frequency of vacations.

This is real evidence that vacations are necessary to your physical health. It is time to rethink our vacation plans. As budgets tighten, it may be a good idea to consider all the options. The up-and-coming travel giant, MOR Vacations, recently announced a new product that may address the issue of family travel on a shoestring budget. Requesting the time off from work may be the only obstacle.

Nearly 25% of Americans in the private business sector are not awarded paid vacation time. Moreover, 127 countries do mandate paid vacation time. However, the United States does not. Mr. John de Graaf, the editor of Take Back Your Time, is lobbying for Congress to pass an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would ensure three full weeks of paid vacation to workers who have been employed with their organization for at least one year. Even though this may be a tough sell to business, vacation time is more attractive than sick time because it is easier to anticipate.

Indications are that the economic downturn is not over. Offsetting the negative ramifications is vital to our health. It may be necessary to set aside funds to ensure a relaxing and luxurious vacation. We all deserve it.

A lifetime travel club membership could add up to be an excellent investment. Steer clear of timeshare scams which require annual maintenance fees and lengthy payment arrangements. Investigate options offering only an up-front fee and a membership that is fully-transferrable. Free unlimited guest travel and upgrade to VIP status for new members is even more valuable. A product like this will leverage your work-life balance and make the most of your travel budget.

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