Taking holidays can reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, according to US researchers.
The findings were published in the journal Psychology &Health, while a review of the study has been published this week in JAMA.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterised by having a collection of risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The research revealed that workers in the US only take up about half of their paid holiday, potentially missing out on getaways that provide a well-being boost and can lower depression.
The study of 63 adults – predominantly white women with an average age of 43 and half of whom worked in healthcare or education – measured waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and fasting blood glucose.
Participants filled in a digital survey on their holiday habits over the past 12 months and spoke to trained interviewers to examine the potential relationship between taking a break and the emergence of metabolic syndrome.
The results showed that participants used an average of 14 paid holiday days spread over five breaks, 40% of which were spent at home.
Those surveyed found holidays ‘pleasant, with little stress’. They reported good quality sleep and low alcohol intake.
Overall, about 21% of participants met criteria for metabolic syndrome, lower than the 35% prevalence in the wider US population.
Analysis of the links between metabolic syndrome and holidays revealed that each additional break was associated with a 24% reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.
Spending days off at home rather than spending each vacation away from home was associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. The probability of meeting the metabolic syndrome criteria was 38% for participants who went away compared with a lower risk of 11% for those who stayed home, on average, for about half of their time off.
Lead author Bryce Hruska of Syracuse University said: “Anecdotally people say vacations are relaxing, so the thought is that if you vacation more frequently you’ve got a reduction in stress and associated physiological arousal and that may translate into fewer of these metabolic symptoms.
“I think the important part is that you’re using your vacation in whatever way is best for you.”