Health and Retirement Study : The effect of vacations, retirement on health

Harvard Men's Health Watch
Published: February, 2006

In one study, men who took the most vacations were 29% less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease and 17% less likely to die over the nine-year study period than those who did not take regular vacations. However, vacations are not equally good for all men. Psychologists in the Netherlands have identified a group of men with "leisure sickness," a set of psychosomatic symptoms that are triggered by time away from work. Still, this condition is rare; for nearly every man, vacations are healthy, says the Harvard Men's Health Watch.

Unlike a vacation, retirement is a permanent change in status, with important effects on a man's self-image. If retirement is preceded by realistic anticipation and planning, it can be a happy and healthy change. A successful retirement requires planning for the loss of income, work relationships, and identity as a worker. A man should cultivate interests to make the leisure of retirement as rewarding as the challenges of work. People who develop interests and relationships before retirement should be able to anticipate this change with eagerness.

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