Compared with those who took more than three weeks, men who took three weeks or less annual leave from their regular work schedule were found to be 37 per cent more likely to die early, the study showed.
“Don’t think to have an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays,” said Timo Strandberg, Professor at the University of Helsinki in Finland.
“Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress,” he added.
The study, presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Cardiology in Germany, included 1,222 middle-aged male executives and were randomised into a control group or an intervention group.
The intervention group received oral and written advice every four months to do an aerobic physical activity, eat a healthy diet, achieve a healthy weight and stop smoking.
Men in the control group received usual healthcare and were not seen by the investigators.
Shorter vacations were associated with excess deaths in the intervention group.
Vacation time had no impact on risk of death in the control group.
“However, our results do not indicate that health education is harmful. Rather, they suggest that stress reduction is an essential part of programmes aimed at reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases,” Strandberg cautioned.