In recent years, American employees have given up an estimated 200 million vacation days (with benefits worth over $66 billion). The average employee forfeits roughly 46% of his or her paid time off, and roughly 1 in 10 take no vacation time at all.
A 2018 survey by the American Psychiatric Association found nearly 40% of Americans were more anxious than during the same time the previous year. Given the physical and mental health benefits of taking time off work, it's not difficult to see the potential relationship between unused vacation time and spikes in stress and anxiety. Health experts have long held that vacations improve mood, lower stress, boost creativity, and can lower rates of heart disease and depression.
For a closer look, we surveyed over 1,100 people about what makes them stressed and how time away from the office can alleviate that tension. We found that people who hadn't taken a vacation in the last year were 29% more stressed than those who took two or more. Continue reading to see what else we learned.
When asked to rate their stress on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stressed, the average American said 4.3 out of 10. The average female millennial rated her stress at 4.8, followed by Gen X women (4.3) and female baby boomers (3.8). Millennials are known as the "most anxious generation," and a combination of lower employment rates and more student loan debt may create greater concern among younger people compared to older generations.
The signs and symptoms of stress often manifest in our physical health. According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), it's not uncommon to experience back pain, headaches, tremors, muscle spasms, stomach pain, insomnia, or difficulty concentrating as a result of stress. Studies also suggest higher levels of stress may lead to a shorter life span.
Seventy percent of people said money was the biggest stressor, and that may not be likely to change anytime soon.
According to the American Psychological Association, money remains the most common stressor for Americans regardless of the economy. With massive increases in the average rate of both credit card debt and student loans, it's perhaps no wonder worry about money tends to seep into virtually every aspect of our lives. Ultimately, the more concerned you are about money, the more likely you are to experience other poor health habits.
Following financial pressure, work (48%), family (21%), personal health (21%), and romantic relationships (20%) were significant stressors for the average American. Compared to 58% of baby boomers and 69% of Gen Xers, 73% of millennials identified money as a leading cause of stress. Millennials were also more likely than older generations to be stressed over work, romance, and friendships. In contrast, baby boomers were more likely to experience stress as a result of family, personal health, and the health of a family member.
While many factors can trigger stress, there’s at least one solution for alleviating the pressures of daily life: a vacation.
Studies suggest committing time to vacation can impact virtually as many aspects of everyday life as the symptoms of stress. In fact, getting away can help lower your risk of a heart attack, help you feel more energized, boost happiness, increase relaxation, enhance productivity, and live a longer life. Taking a vacation may be the perfect remedy if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work.
People who hadn’t been on vacation in the past year rated their stress a 5.3 on average – 29% higher than those who took at least one vacation. In comparison, people who went on vacation once in the last year rated their stress a 4.2, and those who went on more than one vacation in the past year rated their stress a 4.1.
Compared to nearly 32% of people who didn’t take a vacation in the last year, over 76% of people taking two or more trips identified as happy.
Experts suggest there are many reasons travel makes us happier, led perhaps by the opportunity to break away from our well-worn routines to explore new scenery, experience new cultures, and meet new people. Whether you’re traveling 100 miles or 1,000 miles away, seeing more of the world – and learning more about ourselves – can only help boost our mood and make us feel more confident.
Sure, getting away from the office and spending a few days with your toes in the sand is sure to minimize stress. However, it’s important to point out that not all vacations are created equal, and some holidays can leave you just as stressed (or even more so) than before you left the house.
If there’s too much going into planning or it’s difficult coordinating itineraries, you might feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. Similarly, if you don’t plan your time away accordingly and have to work harder or longer before or after vacation, you may undo all the benefits of taking off in the first place.
While nearly half of people felt more productive immediately after vacation, certain types of travel may be more conducive to rest and relaxation than others. Sixty-three percent of people said five-star luxury travels made them feel more productive after their trip, followed by camping (59%), spending time at the beach (59%), and enjoying nature or the outdoors (54%). CNN Travel recently identified Celebrity Cruises as one of the best luxury sailings for health and wellness, citing Celebrity’s Mindful Dreams program (a combination of spa treatments, instructional classes, and expert-led lectures) as an industry-leading way to focus on fitness and nutrition while at sea.
The biggest objection to vacationing was a lack of financial resources. While not enough vacation days at work and having too much to do around the office were also common excuses for not getting away, most people identified money as a barrier between them and their desired time away.
Still, it’s important to recognize that putting together a travel fund may not be as difficult as you think – and it certainly won’t break the bank. Financial analysts recommend putting away a little money every month to help fund your next adventure. Consider opening a dedicated bank account for your vacation savings so you won’t be tempted to spend the money elsewhere and mapping out a savings goal so you know how much money you’ll need to travel. Similarly, money-saving apps can help you identify unnecessary expenses to free up money for your next vacation.
No matter what triggers your stress, there’s no denying the impact it has on both your physical and mental wellness. We found financial troubles were the leading cause of stress among those surveyed, and millennials were more likely to be stressed (particularly about their finances) than other generations. However, people who managed to take at least one vacation a year were significantly less likely to be stressed and more likely to identify as happy.
When it comes to getting away, there’s no vacation quite like a Celebrity cruise. With voyages all around the world, there’s no limit to taking that much-needed Caribbean cruise or experiencing the rugged beauty of an Alaska cruise while you indulge in our top-class spa treatments, expertly crafted cuisine, and legendary entertainment. Luxury travel is the most effective getaway at boosting your productivity after travel, and there’s no luxury at sea quite like Celebrity. From our spacious, luxurious suites, to the Canyon Ranch Spa and Fitness studio, you get to relax on your terms every step of the way. There’s no shortage of adventure waiting for you and your family. With a variety of cruise deals throughout the year to help you maximize every dollar on Celebrity, unforgettable destinations on our designer ships have never been closer. Explore our award-winning fleet of ships and incredible destinations at Celebrity Cruises and start planning your next vacation today!
To collect the data presented above, two surveys were run using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. For the first survey (people who had been on at least one vacation in the past year), respondents were made up of 114 baby boomers, 285 Gen Xers, 459 millennials, and 15 people from generations outside those. For the first survey, there were 465 men, 522 women, and two people who chose to identify as neither. For the second survey (people who had not gone on any vacations in the last year), there were 22 baby boomers, 32 Gen Xers, 115 millennials, and one person from a generation outside those. The second survey contained responses from 86 men and 84 women.
To qualify for the first survey, respondents had to have been on at least one vacation in the past year, and to qualify for the second survey, respondents had to have not been on a vacation in the past year. All data presented above rely on self-reporting, which can be host to a number of issues including telescoping and exaggeration. To combat these issues, an attention check was added to ensure respondents paid attention. Regarding the top stressors of respondents, they were asked to choose up to three things that stressed them the most.
Already thinking about sailing away? If you want to inspire your readers to plan and prioritize their next vacation, we welcome you to share the results of our survey and any related copy or graphics for any noncommercial use. Out of respect to our contributors and their work in compiling this data, we simply ask that you include a link back to this page in your article.