Take a Break, Will You!

Here in Toronto, there’s no mistaking that it’s now summer. During the past week, Torontonians have been sweating through a heat wave with record temperatures in the mid-30°C range (that’s about 95°F, before humidity, for all our readers in the United States).

The one thing summer means for most people is vacation time– although, from what I’ve been reading lately, it seems as though thoughts of vacationing are more wishful thinking than anything else.

Did you know, for example, that we here in North America take the fewest number of holidays than anyone else in the industrialized world? In the United States, employers legally don’t have to give their employees any paid vacation time. That’s right, zero days! To compare, take a look at the list below of government-mandated paid vacation times in other industrialized nations:

United Kingdom: 4 weeks Germany: 24 days France: 30 days Spain: 30 days Italy: 4 weeks Netherlands: 4 weeks Sweden: 25 days Canada: 2 weeks (after 1 year of continuous employment) United States: 0 days

And those numbers don’t even include national and religious holidays (which account for 8 to 14 additional days vacation)!

Thing is, if you’re like most North Americans, it doesn’t matter if you’re entitled to take vacations or not–you probably won’t take a holiday, anyway. North Americans are notoriously overworked, as you can see below:

—34% of Americans feel their jobs are so pressing they have no down time

—32% work and eat lunch at the same time

—19% say they feel obligated to work even when they are injured or sick

—17% find it hard to take time off during a family emergency

—The average American works more hours per year now than we did in the 1950s

—The average American has 3 days of unused vacation leftover at the end of any given year

—North Americans, on average, work 350 hours more per year than Europeans do

—North Americans, on average, work more hours than any other nation in the industrialized world (100 hours more than the Japanese do)

So what’s the point? The point is that it’s unhealthy not to take a vacation every now and then. You’re not doing anyone, not you and not your employer, a favor by working too much. There’s a direct correlation between your leisure time, your productivity, and your health.

Research proves that holiday time is essential to your well being. A State University of New York study proved that the risk of death among men is significantly lowered when they take regular holidays. Another 20-year study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showed that women who don’t take their vacation time are at a substantially higher risk for heart attack and death.

“This is a wake-up call for Americans that taking a vacation is not frivolous behavior–it’s essential to staying healthy… Regular vacations are preventive medicine,” said Alan Muney on the results of the studies, and it’s so true.

So take a break, will you! Even if you can’t book off four weeks like those in Europe do, plan to take an afternoon off here and there or plan a little getaway on the weekend. You not only deserve a holiday–you need it, too.