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People who vacation more also live longer, study reveals

Research presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology is reporting that people who vacation longer also tend to live longer.

Professor Timo Strandberg of the University of Helsinki is one of the study’s co-authors.

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

The study was focused on 1,222 middle-aged male executives born between 1919 and 1934 that participated in the Helsinki Businessmen Study, which was conducted from 1974 to 1975.

The men all had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and elevated triglycerides.

Participants were randomly placed in either a control group or an intervention group for five years. The men in the intervention group received advice every four months to do aerobic physical activity, eat a healthy diet, achieve a healthy weight, and stop smoking. The men in the control group received usual healthcare and were not advised by the investigators.

By the end of the five years, the risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced by 46 percent in the intervention group compared to the control group. After 15 years, however, there had been more deaths in the intervention group than in the control group.

The current investigation has extended the mortality follow-up on the study to 40 years. The researchers used national death registers and examined data on amounts of work, sleep, and vacation among the participants.

While the death rate was found to be 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.

Among individuals in the intervention group, shorter vacations were associated with excess deaths. Men in this group who took three weeks or less of vacation each year had a 37 percent greater chance of dying in 1974 to 2004 than those who took more than three weeks of vacation. On the other hand, vacation time had no impact on risk of death in the control group.

“The harm caused by the intensive lifestyle regime was concentrated in a subgroup of men with shorter yearly vacation time,” said Professor Strandberg. “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.”

The research is published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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