Why Take Vacations?

by Jonah Shepp

Pointing to the abundance of research showing that “people who take vacations aren’t any happier, or are only barely so, than those who [don’t],” Jennifer Senior asks the obvious question:

Several reasons: First of all, our happiness often increases before vacations too, and that’s no small thing—never underestimate the hedonic power of anticipation. The positive memories from vacation also seem to occupy disproportionately large tracts of real estate in our minds, even if we weren’t enjoying our holidays at every moment in real time—and who are we, if not the sum of our most cherished memories?

But perhaps more to the point, our bodies appear to crave a respite from real life. While on vacation, we sleep more (about three quarters of an hour extra per night) and better; there’s also good evidence that they reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease and generally improve our long-term health. As de Bloom and her co-authors say in their 2013 paper, “Asking why we should keep going on vacations is therefore comparable to asking why we should go to sleep considering the fact that we get tired again.” Our bodies need them, simple as that.