When you’re planning a holiday, one of the main points to consider is how long you’ll be going away for. Do you go for a long weekend, a whole week, or perhaps even longer?
According to scientific research, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, there is a perfect length of holiday time which has the maximum beneficial effect on your health and wellbeing.
Researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, set out to explore the effects of holiday length on health and wellbeing, and its relationship to positive aftereffects.
So what's the perfect length? Longer than eight days. But there's an interesting point to be made about the frequency of our holidays, too. Here's why...
There were 54 participants taking part in the study, who had a mean age of 42.5 years and were all employed.
This research focused on longer holidays – ranging from 15 to 34 days, with an average of 23 days. Scientists looked at the psychological processes associated with such a long respite from work and how health and wellbeing developed during and after the holiday.
The volunteers all reported their health and wellbeing before, three or four times during, and five times after the holiday, based on six factors – health status, fatigue, satisfaction, mood, tension and energy level.
The experiment found that health and wellbeing increased rapidly during holiday time, peaking on the eighth day. However, within one week of returning to work, health and wellbeing had returned to baseline level.
In conclusion, the study authors wrote: “Health and wellbeing (H&W) improved during long summer vacations, but this positive effect was short-lived. Vacation experiences, especially pleasure, relaxation, savouring and control, seem to be especially important for the strength and persistence of vacation (after-) effects.
“In short, the development in H&W during and shortly after vacation was independent of vacation duration.”
How long should you holiday for?
According to the study authors, “the present study makes a contribution to understanding long-term recovery: frequent respites might be more important to preserve wellbeing than the duration of one single recovery episode.
"Our results regarding the rapid fade-out of a positive vacation effect also accentuate the methodological importance of on-vacation measures in vacation research.”
So, if you want to get the most from your holiday and feel truly rested and rejuvenated, try to have a break for longer than eight days, and fill your time with pleasurable and relaxing experiences to boost your health and wellbeing.
And, as the authors suggest, it may be more beneficial to take more frequent shorter breaks, rather than one long respite from work.