Skip to main content

Take your vacation, or die?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
July 15, 2012 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Are you feeling down or burnt out from work? Studies suggest that taking vacation is good for you. If your budget allows, the French Riveria offers a great escape. Are you feeling down or burnt out from work? Studies suggest that taking vacation is good for you. If your budget allows, the French Riveria offers a great escape.
HIDE CAPTION
Time to recharge
Time to recharge
Time to recharge
Time to recharge
Time to recharge
Time to recharge
Time to recharge
Time to recharge
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Studies show not taking vacations is associated with health problems
  • Dean Obeidallah: As a nation, we are obsessed with work
  • He says working more does not necessarily mean a better bottom line
  • Obeidallah: Don't apologize for taking your annual vacation

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- "I guess you want to have a heart attack?"

That is the question you should ask yourself every time you put off taking a vacation.

Here's the deal. Studies have shown that not taking vacations is linked to health problems. And if people skip vacations, there's a chance that they may die younger than those who don't.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

I think employers should be required to post warning labels in the workplace similar to those on cigarettes packs. I'd love to see a big sign in the break room that reads: "WARNING: Working too many weeks without a vacation is going to kill you. Seriously, you are going to die from it."

We are all well aware that stress is harmful to our health. It causes problems ranging from ulcers to body aches to insomnia. Vacations are one of the major antidotes to stress.

Travel: Relax, it's only a vacation

Vacationing is good for your health

One study found that men at high risk for coronary heart disease, and who failed to take annual vacations, were 32% more susceptible to dying from a heart attack.

Another study compared women who vacationed at least twice a year to those who took one every six years or less. Astoundingly, the women who did not vacation annually were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack.

As a nation, we are obsessed with work. Some view taking a vacation as a sign of weakness. Others who haven't vacationed in years see it as a badge of honor. And still others apologize for taking a vacation, as they feel guilty for taking time off even though they have earned it.

The average American worker has 14 vacation days per year, but most only use 12 of those days. Worse than that, about 25% of Americans don't take any vacation at all. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not legally require workers to be provided a set number of paid vacation days.

This is in stark contrast to Europe where the European Union mandates that workers be provided with 20 paid vacation days every year. Anyone wants to guess which place has higher life expectancy: U.S. or Europe? European countries win, of course. In fact, the U.S. is 28th in the world in life expectancy.

If saving your life isn't enough of a reason to take a few vacations, here is another: People who take annual vacations are more productive.

A 2010 study found that 35% of Americans feel better about their job and are more productive after a vacation. Vacations have been found to help us recharge -- we sleep better during them and for a period of time afterwards. And our brain responses become quicker after vacations.

As difficult as it is for some to believe, working more hours does not necessarily translate to a better bottom line or higher productivity. For example, Greeks work the most in Europe -- averaging 2,017 hours per year. Yet, they are no better off as their economy is a wreck.

Now take a look at Germany -- Europe's economic powerhouse. I'm sure some would guess that the Germans work longer hours. Wrong. Germans work on average 1,408 hours per year, placing them second to last among the 25 European nations in hours worked annually. They also receive on average 30 paid vacation days a year -- the most in Europe.

A vacation doesn't have to be two weeks on the French Riviera. It can be a trip to the Jersey shore -- the real one, not the one with Snooki and Mike "the Situation." It could be a camping expedition or a few days in the mountains.  The point is -- it could be as adventurous or low key as you want it to be.

I have seen first hand the consequence of not taking regular vacations. My father -- the workaholic -- hated vacations. He refused to take them on annual basis. Sadly, he passed away some years ago after his third open heart surgery at a much younger age than his peers. There's no doubt that stress reduction -- such as yearly vacations -- could have extended his life.

Travel: Readers share vacation planning tactics

So if you're thinking of skipping your vacation, it's not too late to change your mind. The summer just started. You'll feel better rested, healthier and more productive.

Or, you can choose to keep working non-stop like a hamster running on a wheel that keeps going faster and faster. Until, finally, one day, you collapse, are carried off on a stretcher, and replaced by a similar looking creature.

What's it going to be?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 13, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
To prevent war with North Korea over a comedy, what would Dennis Rodman say to Kim Jong Un? Movie critic Gene Seymour weighs in.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Michael Werz says in light of the spying cases, U.S. is seen as a paranoid society that can't tell friends from foes.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Eric Liu explains why in his new book, he calls himself "Chinese American" -- without a hyphen.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1512 GMT (2312 HKT)
John Bare says hands-on learning can make a difference in motivating students to acquire STEM skills.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Karl Alexander and Linda Olson find blacks and whites live in urban poverty with similar backgrounds, but white privilege wins out as they grow older.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says a poll of 14 Muslim-majority nations show people are increasingly opposed to extremism.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spending more on immigation enforcement isn't going to stop the flow of people seeking refuge in the U.S.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Faisal Gill had top security clearance and worked for the Department of Homeland Security. That's why it was a complete shock to learn the NSA had him under surveillance.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Kevin Sabet says the scientific verdict is that marijuana can be dangerous, and Colorado should be a warning to states contemplating legalizing pot.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that inflicted agonizing injury and death. Its lethal legacy lingers into conflicts today, Paul Schulte says
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
Tom Foley and Ben Zimmer say Detroit's recent bankruptcy draws attention to a festering problem in America -- cities big and small are failing to keep up with change.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Mel Robbins says many people think there's "something suspicious" about Leanna Harris. But there are other interpretations of her behavior
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Amy Bass says Germany's rout of Brazil on its home turf was brutal, but in defeat the Brazilian fans' respect for the victors showed why soccer is called 'the beautiful game'
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Aaron Carroll explains how vaccines can prevent illnesses like measles, which are on the rise
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Aaron Miller says if you think the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas over Gaza will force a moment of truth, better think again
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Norman Matloff says a secret wage theft pact between Google, Apple and others highlights ethics problems in Silicon Valley.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder cries as she meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on July 7, 2014.
Naseem Tuffaha says the killing of Israeli teenagers has rightly brought the world's condemnation, but Palestinian victims like his cousin's slain son have been largely reduced to faceless, nameless statistics.
ADVERTISEMENT