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Holidays make one healthy and happy


Scientific study confirms regular breaks have a positive effect – several short trips are better than a long holiday – psychologist presents her latest findings at the ITB Berlin Convention.
BERLIN - Holidays benefit people’s health and let them recover from the stress of their day-to-day lives. A recent study has now confirmed what many travellers regularly experience. Dr. Jessica de Bloom, a work and organisational psychologist at the University of Tampere in Finland, has examined how holidays benefit people’s health and wellbeing and come to some fascinating conclusions from which the tourism industry can profit. She presented her findings at a workshop organised by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Tourismusforschung at this year’s ITB Berlin Convention. According to the study, holidays not only benefit people’s health but make them happier as well. These latest research findings on the topic of personal happiness confirm that people who spend their money on concerts, family trips or short breaks are happier than those who acquire material objects such as jewellery, clothing and electronic devices. The reason, according to Dr. Jessica de Bloom, is that they cannot be compared. “One can compare a designer suit with an expensive watch, but not one’s diving holidays on the Red Sea and a colleague’s city break in Barcelona. What is more, experiences do not wear out over time.”

Switching off to shut out stress
Taking a break from everyday routines also benefits one’s health. Scientists and doctors conducting the Framingham Heart Study found that people who do not go on holiday for longer periods are at greater risk of becoming ill or even dying earlier than those who regularly go on breaks. Frequent breaks rather than extended holidays are crucial to maintaining good health. Every type of holiday examined by the study, whether a short break or a three-week hiking trip, produced evidence of comparative benefits to people’s health and wellbeing. Dr. Jessica de Bloom compares this with the effects of sleep: “One cannot postpone one’s sleep or relaxation requirements. One long summer holiday cannot compensate for a whole year of hard work and overtime.“ In order to remain healthy the important thing is to relax on a regular basis, she added.

Freedom to make one’s own choices on holiday helps one to relax
Whether or not a holiday is relaxing and remembered as such depends on a variety of factors. According to de Bloom’s study, 17 per cent of people feel worse when they are on holiday than before they went. Among the reasons are negative events such as travel stress or a sudden illness. Her study also confirms that, crucially, this is influenced less by the type of holiday activities people undertake than by them having the freedom to make their own choices. Activities should satisfy people’s needs and it is the holidaymakers who should be able to choose them. In other words, being able to make one’s own choices when on holiday is the key to a perfect break. In fact, activities play an even greater role as they influence people’s perception of how long they were on holiday. Time simply flies for those who undertake a lot of holiday activities. Afterwards, they remember having had a long holiday, in contrast to those who spend their time in the hotel or on the beach. The last day on holiday can well decide how people remember their trip: “Packing suitcases and other unappealing activities are best dealt with a day before leaving to make sure the last day on holiday can be enjoyed to the full“, advises de Bloom.

Reducing stress factors and inspiring happiness
The findings of this study on holidays and relaxation could be of practical use to the tourism industry. According to de Bloom, travel agency sales of holiday tours could improve a customer’s holiday experience, providing travel agents are aware of the positive effects and how to reduce stress. What is more, tourism products need to be further improved to ensure tourists enjoy maximum satisfaction when on holiday.

Dr. Martin Buck, Director of Travel & Logistics, Messe Berlin: “These latest research findings give us a deeper insight into the needs of today’s travellers. They offer valuable inspiration for creating innovative tourism products and give companies the decisive edge in a hotly contested travel market."
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