The Holiday Health Experiment

Revealed: how holidays help you live longer

People returning to work after a holiday are often told by their colleagues, ‘You look well!’ But is this really true – do holidays have an impact on your health, beyond a tan that
quickly fades? For the first time Kuoni Travel and Nuffield Health have clinically measured the health benefits of a break – to provide an objective assessment of the improvements to
wellbeing generated by a holiday.

Nuffield Health and psychotherapist Christine Webber, carried out a series of clinical and psychotherapeutic tests in order to develop for the first time an accurate picture of how getting away from it all can influence a whole series of key health indicators – blood pressure, ability to recover from stress, quality of sleep and, of course, emotional health.

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We took 12 people and gave them full health assessments and psychological tests. We also asked them to wear heart monitors. We gave them lifestyle and dietary advice.

We then sent half the group on holidays to either Thailand, Peru or the Maldives. The other half of the group stayed at home.

Two weeks after the holidaymakers returned, both groups had more medicals, psychological tests and wore heart monitors for several days.

Our study showed that the holidaymakers’ ability to recover from stress, their sleep quality and their blood pressures were significantly improved compared with the group who had not had a holiday.

  • Resilience to Stress: The holidaymakers' ability to recover from stress improved by 29 per cent while that of the group that did not travel went down by 71 per cent.
  • Sleep: The holidaymakers' sleep quality improved by 34 points. Stay-at-homers' slumped 27 points.
  • Blood Pressure: Having a holiday resulted in an average blood pressure reduction in the holidaymakers’ group of six per cent. In comparison the average blood pressure of the people who didn't have a holiday went up by two per cent. Stress can result in blood pressure rises leading to increased risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Other holidaymaker improvements included:

  • Decreases in blood glucose levels, reducing risk of diabetes.
  • Improved body shape (losing weight around their middles) which may lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Improved energy levels and mood.

Jay Brewer, Professional Head of Physiology, Nuffield Health said:

“The holiday should be used to rest and recover but also to gain perspective and plan. The health assessment should be used to focus on the most important things and decide where to make changes for the better.

“The control group only saw an improvement in one area (but still not as much as the holidaymakers) – in their blood glucose levels and this was probably through dietary changes and exercise. We would expect to see some longer-term improvements if they carried on implementing these things.”

 

Christine Webber, psychotherapist said:

“This study shows that holidays not only feel good, but that they actually help us to be healthier.”