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How Do Paid Vacations Affect Mental Health?

By HERWriter
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group of friends with guitar on beach Photo: Getty Images

What’s better than being paid to go on vacation? Most people will agree that this phenomenon is one of the better things to happen in life, but unfortunately many Americans aren’t getting the chance to experience paid vacations.

Generally, the longer employees are with their companies, the more paid time off they get. For example, Bureau of Labor statistics show that in March 2009 “among employees with 20 years of service, 38 percent received 20 to 24 paid vacation days a year.” Those who hadn’t worked for 20 years didn’t receive 20 to 24 paid vacation days very often.

Although some people are getting paid vacations, shouldn’t everyone get at least some time off? I mean, none of the above statistics ever showed even 50 percent of employees getting paid time off for any time length.

One piece of legislation called the Paid Vacation Act of 2009 would require at least one week of paid vacation time for employees with certain requirements, like needing to work for an employer for a year. However, it was never passed.

Although this is unusual, some companies even offer unlimited paid vacation time, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Julie Ménard, a psychology professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada, said in an e-mail that whether people take vacations or not depends on the culture of the organization they work for.

“It can be hard to ask for a vacation break when no one or very few are actually taking vacations,” Ménard said.

It can also depend on the individual.

“Some people find it more difficult to psychologically detach from work,” she said. “They tend to think a lot about work, in a negative way. Thus, they tend to ruminate about what happened at work during the day and also about what could happen if they were not there. This could be more difficult for them to take vacations. And even if they do, is it really a break?”

Regardless of individual factors, generally vacations are a positive experience, especially regarding mental health.

“Even after a short break, we can observe a reduction in the level of fatigue and emotional exhaustion,” Ménard said.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.