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Vacations May Be a Life-Saver

Vacations May Be A Real Lifesaver

A new long-term study suggests taking vacations could prolong life.

Finnish researchers followed over 1,0000 middle age male executives in a 40-year study and found that even a healthy lifestyle may not compensate for working too hard.

“Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays,” said Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, Finland. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”

The study included 1,222 middle-aged male executives born in 1919 to 1934 and recruited into the Helsinki Businessmen Study in 1974 and 1975. Participants had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, glucose intolerance, overweight).

Participants were randomized into a control group (610 men) or an intervention group (612 men) for five years.

The intervention group received oral and written advice every four months to do aerobic physical activity, eat a healthy diet, achieve a healthy weight and stop smoking.

When health advice alone was not effective, men in the intervention group also received drugs recommended at that time to lower blood pressure (beta-blockers and diuretics) and lipids (clofibrate and probucol).

Men in the control group received usual health care and were not seen by the investigators.

As previously reported, the risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced by 46 percent in the intervention group compared to the control group by the end of the trial.

However, at the 15-year follow-up in 1989 there had been more deaths in the intervention group than in the control group.

The new study analysis extends the mortality follow-up to 40 years (2014) using national death registers. Researchers also examined previously unreported baseline data on amounts of work, sleep and vacation.

Investigators found that the death rate was consistently higher in the intervention group compared to the control group until 2004. Death rates were the same in both groups between 2004 and 2014. They discovered shorter vacations were associated with excess deaths in the intervention group.

Specifically, in the intervention group, men who took three weeks or less annual vacation had a 37 percent greater chance of dying in 1974 to 2004 than those who took more than three weeks.

Vacation time had no impact on risk of death in the control group.

Said Strandberg, “The harm caused by the intensive lifestyle regime was concentrated in a subgroup of men with shorter yearly vacation time. In our study, men with shorter vacations worked more and slept less than those who took longer vacations.

“This stressful lifestyle may have overruled any benefit of the intervention. We think the intervention itself may also have had an adverse psychological effect on these men by adding stress to their lives.”

Strandberg also noted that stress management was not part of preventive medicine in the 1970s but is now recommended for individuals with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease.

In addition, more effective drugs are now available to lower lipids (statins) and blood pressure (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers).

“Our results do not indicate that health education is harmful,” Strandberg said. “Rather, they suggest that stress reduction is an essential part of programs aimed at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle advice should be wisely combined with modern drug treatment to prevent cardiovascular events in high-risk individuals.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology/EurekAlert

Photo: Figure of the intervention and control groups. Credit: European Society of Cardiology .

Vacations May Be A Real Lifesaver

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Vacations May Be A Real Lifesaver. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/08/31/vacations-may-be-a-real-lifesaver/138259.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 31 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Aug 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.