- Deseret News - Monday, January 5, 2015

American workers hoping for a happy and healthy new year should find time in their schedules for a vacation, according to a new Gallup survey.

Regular vacations with family or friends are linked to higher well-being at all income levels, Gallup reported.

Respondents who “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they “always make time for regular trips” had a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which uses questions about purpose, social support, financial resources, community involvement and physical health to measure people’s outlook on life. Less-frequent travelers had a 51.4 well-being score.

The benefits of vacation are strong enough to counter financial hardships that affect workers in the lowest income bracket.

“Those who earn less than $24,000 annually and say they take regular trips actually have higher well-being (scoring 66.3) than those who earn $120,000 or more but say they don’t regularly make time for vacations (55.1),” Gallup reported.

However, the survey found that low income workers are “about half as likely (33 percent) to make time for such leisure as those who make $120,000 or more annually (64 percent).”

Gallup’s findings are important at a time when workers seem less inclined than in the past to use paid holidays, whether because of the stress of falling behind on projects or the costs of planning trips.

A recent study, released in October by the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Effect Initiative, found that, “From 1976 to 2000, American workers used 20.3 days of vacation each year. Since then, the number has dropped precipitously, with American workers reporting just 16.0 days in 2013 — almost a full workweek less compared to pre-2000.”

Joe Robinson, a productivity and stress management trainer and coach, told CNN that the recent recession and an associated period of layoffs across industries likely made workers worry that vacation made them seem less committed to their jobs.

“Many people are so caught up in the performance identity, worth based on what they get done, they feel guilty when they step back,” Mr. Robinson said.

Gallup’s new survey also adds to recent research about the emotional impact of vacations, which has been shown to be a mixed bag.

As Harvard Business Review reported in February, “Not every vacation is equal.”

Even a long-awaited vacation to an exotic, tropical beach can’t add to overall happiness if travel-related stress is the defining emotion of the trip, the article noted.

Harvard Business Review concluded that to get the biggest emotional boost from travel, people should ask friends or even professional travel agents for help ironing out trip details ahead of time, finish planning more than one month in advance, choose a destination that’s far away from home and meet up with someone who’s traveled to the location before.

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