Why Skipping Your Summer Vacation Could Kill You

As vacation season rolls around, some Americans are planning to forsake their summer getaways. More than half of the respondents in a Yahoo! HotJobs survey said they’ll sacrifice summer vacation this year to save money. But if you make a habit of skipping vacations, you could be shortening your life.

No doubt the creaking and groaning economy has workers worried that taking vacation could be seen as slacking off, and potentially cost them their jobs. Still, American workers already enjoy far fewer vacation benefits than their counterparts in other countries. Our average annual vacation time is 14 days; Great Britain weighs in at 26 days, and France, 37 days. The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t mandate paid vacation time.

There’s ample evidence showing those who take vacations–real ones, without a Blackberry, laptop, or other lifeline to the office–are more productive, less likely to suffer heart attacks, sleep better, and just plain live longer.

So we’re stuck. We don’t want to risk our jobs by taking a vacation, but if we don’t relax, we’re undermining our well-being. We need help–and it could be on the way, if Take Back Your Time, a nonprofit group, gets its way. The group is working with Congress on federal legislation calling for three weeks of mandated annual vacation for anyone who works at a job for one year.

There will probably be much debate around such legislation, with companies lobbying against it, and lawmakers in Washington stalling and stammering. But workers can do some lobbying of their own, and voice their support for the measure to their local congressional offices.

Readers, should the federal government mandate paid vacation time, and (indirectly) improve the quality of our lives?