Three weeks’ holiday or more each year is the most important factor to a long life, according to researchers.
The findings of a lifestyle study that began 40 years ago claim taking vacations is even more beneficial to following a healthy lifestyle.
The study, which began in the 1970s, involved 1,222 middle-aged male executives, born between 1919 and 1934, who had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, overweight or smoking.
Half were told to exercise, maintain a good diet, stop smoking or keep to a healthy weight, while the other half were given no advice.
According to the findings, those given the regular advice were more likely to die young – possibly because they suffered extra stress by trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
Among the same group, those who took less than three weeks off each year were 37% more likely to die young over the next 30 years.
The results were presented this week at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich,
Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, said: “Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays.
“Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”
He added: “The harm caused by the intensive lifestyle regime was concentrated in a subgroup of men with shorter yearly vacation time.
“In our study, men with shorter vacations worked more and slept less than those who took longer vacations.
“This stressful lifestyle may have overruled any benefit of the intervention. We think the intervention itself may also have had an adverse psychological effect on these men by adding stress to their lives.”