Vacation effects on behaviour, cognition and emotions of compulsive and non-compulsive workers: do obsessive workers go 'cold turkey'?

Stress Health. 2014 Aug;30(3):232-43. doi: 10.1002/smi.2600.


Compulsive workers often face psychological and physical health disturbances because of working long hours and an obsessive preoccupation with work during off-job time. Prolonged respite episodes may either relief these employees from their daily stressors to recover or trigger withdrawal symptoms. Our research question was as follows: How do (1) work hours, (2) rumination and (3) affective well-being unfold for compulsive workers compared with non-compulsive workers across long vacations? In a longitudinal field study, work hours, rumination and affective well-being were assessed in 54 employees 2 weeks before, during and in the first, second and fourth week after a long summer vacation. Working compulsively was assessed 3 weeks before vacation. Work hours decreased during and increased after vacation. Levels of rumination dropped during vacation and remained below baseline until 2 weeks after vacation. Initial differences in rumination between obsessive and non-obsessive workers disappeared during and directly after vacation. Affective well-being rose during vacation and returned to baseline directly after vacation. Increases in affective well-being during vacation as well as decreases after vacation were greater in obsessive workers than in non-obsessive workers. Vacations seem to temporarily offset characteristic differences between obsessive and non-obsessive workers, decrease rumination and improve affective well-being.

Keywords: holiday; rumination; stress; work hours; workaholic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Compulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Holidays / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Thinking / physiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology*