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The benefits of annual leave

Research shows that taking annual leave can improve our mood, extend our life, and reduce risks to our health and wellbeing. 

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Whatever your job, annual leave is often a crucial part of it. Our minds and our bodies need proper breaks from the workplace – and regularly! In fact, research suggests that taking annual leave for holiday purposes can boost workplace productivity, improve your mental health and wellbeing, and extend your life.

The benefits of taking a break

Reduced stress
According to Not Taking Annual Leave: What Could it Cost Australia?, making use of owed holidays is associated with reduced work-related stress. ‘Workplace stress can lead to headaches, increased anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, increased drinking and reduced work performance and productivity’, say Grant Cairncross and Iain Waller, the authors of the study. One ‘area that is acknowledged as helping reduce workplace stress is the utilisation of holidays and annual leave’. 

Extended life
Taking annual leave may be one of the keys to living longer. In 2000, a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine revealed a reduced risk of premature death among middle-aged men at high risk of developing heart disease.

Improved mood
According to a study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal, women who take holidays twice or more per year are less likely to become depressed, tense or tired. In fact, the researchers found that ‘the odds of being depressed increased as the frequency of vacation decreased’.

Better social life
The Wisconsin Medical Journal study also reported happier relationships among women who took regular holidays. ‘Women who took vacations more frequently were found to be more satisfied with their marriage, and their work had no impact on socialising with family and friends’.

Reduced risk of heart disease
Workaholics, beware! One British study of 7,095 full-time civil service workers found a 67 per cent increased risk of heart disease in those who worked 11 or more hours a day compared to those who clocked up seven or eight hours.

Greater workplace productivity
It makes sense that if taking annual leave can improve our mood, extend our life and reduce our risk of heart disease, then workplace productivity is surely going to benefit as well. In fact, the report What About the Bosses?: Employers and Extended Hours of Work, suggests that workers who experience favourable working hours and additional annual leave tend to work more productively and take fewer sick days.

Your rights
By law, all employees, excluding casual workers, are entitled to a minimum of four weeks paid annual leave for every year of service in Australia. This figure can vary from one employee to another depending on the type of job and the hours worked. Visit Fair Work for more information.

Take a break for your health’s sake
Taking annual leave is your body’s chance to recover from the demands of the workplace and ‘recharge your batteries’. So, if you’re a workaholic who needs an excuse to take a break then simply choose from one of the six benefits above and take that holiday!  

Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.

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