Travel-related change of residence leads to a transitory stress reaction in humans

J Travel Med. 2012 Jul;19(4):243-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1708-8305.2012.00624.x.


Objective: It is well known that animals show a stress response when confronted with a novel environment. The aim of the this study was to investigate whether humans show a similar response by studying the reaction to a travel-related transitory change of residence.

Method: Forty-eight individuals (32 women, 16 men, age 40-83 years) traveling to a health resort approximately 120 km from their home town participated in the study. Individuals monitored their blood pressure (BP) twice a day 3 weeks before (baseline) and during the stay and filled out a diary stating their mood and sleep. The change of the variables relative to baseline on the day before departure, the travel day, and the day after arrival as well as 5 days after arrival were determined.

Results: Systolic and diastolic BPs were increased on the day before travel and diastolic BP remained increased on the travel day and the day after arrival. Sleep was poorer during the first night at the new residence. All three variables had returned to baseline level 5 days into the stay. Mood was not affected by the change of residence.

Conclusion: The results indicate that not only the change of residence but also its anticipation affects individuals in a transient way. The findings are relevant not only for the basic understanding of the reaction to novel environments but also to travel, tourism as well as rehabilitation, and spa-research.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Travel / psychology*