The Holiday Health Experiment was conducted by tour operator Kuoni and Nuffield Health, the UK's largest healthcare charity between summer and autumn 2012, revealing how holidays can help people live longer. The results are published in The Holiday Health Report.
The study, the first of its kind, set out to establish whether the much-discussed 'feel good factor' generated by vacations is based on physical and psychological fact.
Participants were divided into a travel group and a non-travel group and all had stress-resilience testing and a 360+ Health Assessment by Nuffield Health. This was carried out alongside psychotherapeutic tests conducted by psychotherapist Christine Webber.
The Holiday Health Experiment found that those who took part benefited from lower blood pressure, improved sleep quality and improved stress management, with the effects continuing for at least two weeks after returning home.
Highlights of the findings:
- The average blood pressure of the holidaymakers dropped by a beneficial six per cent while the average of the non-holidaymakers went up over the same period by two per cent. (Avoiding high blood pressure is important to avert risk of stroke and heart attacks).
- The sleep quality of the holidaymakers improved while that of the non-holidaymakers deteriorated. Holidaymakers saw a 17 per cent improvement while the average for non-holidaymakers reduced by 14 per cent. (Quality of sleep is important for the body to physically and mentally repair).
- The ability to recover from stress (known as the stress-resilience test) saw an average improvement of 29 per cent among holidaymakers. This compared to a 71 per cent fall in stress resilience scores among the non-holidaymakers. (The higher the stress resilience score the better the body is recovering from stress efficiently).
Dr. Lucy Goundry Nuffield Health, Medical Director, Wellbeing said: "For the first time, our clinical results show how holidays helped these couples reduce their blood pressure, improve their sleep and manage their stress levels better.
"These results clearly demonstrate that on holiday our resilience to stress (our ability to physically cope with stress) improves. Becoming more resilient to stress is hugely important as most of us will return back to stress when our holiday ends but being more resilient to it helps lay the foundations for improved productivity at work, better energy levels and ultimately happiness.
"As many as a third of workers do not take their full holiday entitlement each year, I urge everyone to ensure they plan their holidays carefully, working hard is important but so is taking time to rest and recuperate."
The 12 participants in the experiment were divided into two groups.
Both groups underwent a 360+ health assessment, wore heart monitors to measure their sleep patterns and resilience to stress, had psychotherapeutic tests and were given dietary and lifestyle advice in summer 2012.
Six participants in one group were then sent on a holiday for two weeks to Thailand, Peru or the Maldives. The other six people stayed at home and continued working.
In September 2012, all participants underwent a second array of clinical and psychological tests and wore heart monitors for 72 hours.
Kuoni specialises in long-haul, luxury holidays. It believes one size does not fit all and focus on individualising holidays to customers' specific needs, including Caribbean holidays, Thailand holidays, Maldives holidays and Cuba holidays. Kuoni recently opened 22 stylish shops across the UK where expert staff can work with customers to find the right holiday for them in a relaxed setting. It also recently opened four shops within John Lewis department stores in Oxford Street, London; Southampton; Reading and Cardiff. Kuoni was founded in 1906 in Switzerland by Alfred Kuoni, a visionary adventurer and explorer who opened some of Europe's first travel agencies.
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