It’s intuitive for most people to think about vacations as a way to reduce stress and enhance their health, but two recent surveys build a factual case for agency clients to travel more.
In its 10th?annual Vacation Confidence Index,?Allianz Global Assistance?coined the term “Vacation Deficit Disorder” – the relationship between a lack of vacation and depression.
The trend was identified by international polling experts, Ipsos, which administered the PHQ-9 survey, a clinically validated screening questionnaire to test likely levels of depression. According to the Ipsos research, 30.4 percent of Americans with a “vacation deficit” demonstrate symptoms of mild to moderate depression, versus 22.3 percent who are not suffering a vacation deficit.
Similarly, 12 percent would be considered to be suffering signs of moderately severe to severe depression versus 5.2 percent of those respondents who are not suffering from a vacation deficit.
Nearly 58 percent of people with a vacation deficit are experiencing none or minimal symptoms of depression, compared with 72 percent of those who are not suffering a vacation deficit.
“While we have long known that Americans underutilize their vacation time, this shows the real consequences this can have for their health and well-being,” said Daniel Durazo, Director of Communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA.
“There seems to be no question that the United States has an unhealthy ‘vacation culture’” Durazo said. “Hopefully by bringing this data to light, more employers will understand the importance for employees to use their vacation days to unplug and return to work re-charged.”
While Allianz believes the research shows a relationship between the lack of vacation and signs of clinical depression, “more comprehensive work is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of not taking a vacation on the mental health of Americans,” Durazo said.
To understand whether there was a link between depression and the incidence of vacationing, Ipsos, in partnership with Allianz, administered the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) survey, an initial screening tool used by medical professionals to identify symptoms of depression. This is the first time in the 10-year history of this survey that Allianz has explored the issue of depression and vacation use.
Among those respondents who were identified as potentially having moderately severe or severe depression, 62 percent did not take a 2017 summer vacation, and 56 percent said their last vacation was more than two years ago, despite the fact that 40 percent feel taking an annual vacation is “very important.”
Allianz didn’t ask any other questions about travel purchases that show what types of travel those with and without depressive symptoms book, or any other vacation purchase behaviors.
Vacations are good for mind, body and soul
Meanwhile, AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), conducted a survey exploring the health benefits from traveling, and found that 81 percent of Americans say they notice “some improvement in their health or well-being” while away, and that traveling “often puts people in a better mood after they return.”
“Most Americans, in fact, report boosts to their physical or mental health not just during and after a trip, but even before one,” said Vicki Gelfeld, senior research advisor at AARP, which conducted a national online survey of about 1,500 adults this summer.
While adults don’t necessarily book a trip with wellness at the top of their itineraries, AARP’s research shows that travelers enjoy the unexpected bonuses of better sleep (51 percent), more energy (50 percent), increased productivity (46 percent), improved overall health (46 percent), and mental clarity (45 percent).
Most health improvements appear to last 3-4 weeks post-trip, respondents told AARP, with improved relationships with loved ones lasting six weeks on average.
The top-ranked factors leading to health benefits reported include spending quality time with friends and family (67 percent) and getting out of the day-to-day routine (63 percent).
While feeling better is an outcome for respondents to the AARP survey, wellness is not always an intentional part of travel. Only 31 percent of Baby Boomers incorporate some kind of wellness activity into their vacations intentionally, while 53 percent of Millennials (ages 21-37) and 40 percent of GenXers (ages 38-53) do the same.
Baby Boomers who do incorporate wellness activities into their trip say it has a side benefit, with most such activities somewhat planned (46 percent) or unplanned (45 percent). Just 9 percent of their trips were exclusively centered on wellness, the survey shows.
Among Boomers, about 66 percent cited physical wellness as being a part of their wellness vacation experience, and 40 percent noted physical wellness as the aspect from which they benefited most. Most Boomers got their exercise from walking (63 percent). Other top activities included sightseeing (31 percent), hiking (26 percent), swimming (24 percent), and spa services (20 percent).?
Boomers who were active on vacation look back on the value of their wellness activities favorably, and over 90 percent would likely choose similar activities again in the future. Meanwhile, 38 percent of these repeat wellness travelers are more apt not to plan, and just let an activity happen.
Health improvements from travel are likely impacted by the “health baggage” your clients bring with them into a trip. For example, slightly less than half of Baby Boomers see themselves as being in very good or excellent health, with more than one-fourth (26 percent) admitting they do not live a healthy lifestyle. About two-thirds of Boomers report having some kind of health issue, most commonly diabetes or with mobility, the number one issue that limits travel.
While vacations have many health benefits, travel advisors should be aware of the what AARP labeled the post-trip “vacation hangover.” About 20 percent of respondents reported feeling tired following a leisure trip, a period lasting about one week on average. Half of Baby Boomers indicated they do not experience any health issues post-trip.
AARP conducted the 15-minute online survey from a national sample of leisure travelers ages 18 and over. Respondents traveled within the past two years for two nights or more, at least 50 miles from home, for non-business-related travel.?The 1,500 surveys were completed in August 2018; and the data was weighted to U.S. Census, by generation, for analysis.
The Allianz Vacation Confidence Index has been conducted each summer since 2010 by national polling firm, Ipsos Public Affairs, on behalf of Allianz Global Assistance USA. A vacation is defined as a leisure trip of at least a week to a place that is 100 miles or more from home.?