Vacation's lingering benefits, but only for those with low stress jobs

Psychol Health. 2021 Aug;36(8):895-912. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2020.1814958. Epub 2020 Sep 2.


Vacationing provides potential recovery from work stress and is associated with cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. This study considered psychological variables that might change as a vacation is approaching (fade-in) or after a vacation ends (fade-out) and how these associations might vary as a function of ongoing work stress. Methods: Sixty workers eligible for paid time off were recruited from the community. Multiple assessments occurred during an 8- to 10-week period spanning the period before and after a vacation. A piecewise random coefficient model compared changes over time (slopes) for pre- and post-vacation periods. Outcomes included affect, aggression, social support, and work stress. Results: Hostile affect, negative affect, stress, and physical aggression all declined significantly during the post-vacation period (relative to no change during the pre-vacation period). In addition, these changes in pre- versus post-vacation periods differed as a function of work stress, with some vacation benefits observed specifically among workers with low work stress. Conclusions: Findings indicate that vacations produced psychological benefits that persist beyond the vacation period. Vacation-associated benefits may serve as mechanisms underlying associations between vacations and slow developing disease. However, work stress appears to spillover and can thereby undermine a vacation's fade-in and fade-out benefits.

Keywords: Vacations; health; leisure activities; respite; work stress.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Recreation*