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Do vacations have a lasting effect on well-being?

Published on October 21, 2018 at 14:42 / Updated on July 19, 2023 at 15:42

Vacations are a perfect time to step away from our workaday lives, cultivate our passions and spend time with our loved ones. But do vacations make us happier?

With an aim to study the effect vacations have on happiness and how long that effect lasts, researchers surveyed over 1500 Netherlanders over the course of 32 weeks, with nearly two-thirds of those surveyed having gone on vacation during that period.

According to the results of the study, the greatest increase in happiness occurred in the eight weeks preceding the vacation, in other words when the vacation was in its planning stages. After the time off, the level of happiness quickly dropped back down to regular levels for most people surveyed. The amount of stress or relaxation experienced on the trip appeared to influence post-vacation happiness. In other words, travelers experienced no benefit in post-vacation well-being when the vacation was described as “stressful” or “neutral.” Surprisingly, even travelers who said their vacation was relaxing showed no additional boost in happiness upon their return. They were no happier than those who had continued their usual work routine.

The researchers feel these results may be associated with the return to work, for example when an individual’s “to-do” list has considerably lengthened during the time off.

Only travelers who reported feeling “very relaxed” on their vacation experienced an increase in happiness upon their return, an effect that lasted for about two weeks after the trip.

The results of the study do not make it possible to establish a link between vacation length and general happiness. According to the researchers, since the jump in happiness occurs during the vacation planning stage, several short holidays may be preferable to a single long vacation period per year.

While the well-being derived from a vacation is temporary, unforgettable are the simple moments of joy that create happy memories and close-knit relationships with our loved ones.

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