All Work, No Play Not Healthy for American Workers

The United States is an avowed nation of workaholics. But our work ethic isn’t particularly good for our health and may actually diminish job performance. According to a 2011 U.S. News article, physicians have found that rest and relaxation have myriad benefits for our physical, mental and emotional health. Experts say that taking a vacation to get away from the daily grind can help reduce stress, decrease your risk of heart disease, improve reaction time, increase your body’s ability to fight disease, improve your ability to manage relationships, and give you a more positive outlook on life.

“The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound,” Los Angeles clinical psychologist Francine Lederer told U.S. News. “Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation.”

But new studies say that Americans are among the least likely people in the world to take all of the average 12 days of vacation time they’re allotted. In 2012, American workers left from 2 to 11 vacation days on the table. According to Hotwire, the number of unused vacation days reported this year jumped 48% over last year. Expedia, which has conducted an annual vacation survey for the past 8 years, says economic fears about job security are only partly to blame. Failing to take vacation time seems to stem from the strong job identity that is part of American culture.

Europeans take a different view, typically using all of their 30 annual vacation days. Asian workers are more likely to skip vacation days, with Japanese workers taking the least time off, using only 5 of their 13 vacation days. Job efficiency experts say Americans could profit from using more of their vacation time. Workers are more productive and more creative when they take time off to recharge their batteries.

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