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Overworked Americans can't use up their vacation

May 13, 2002 - "Vacation Deprivation" hits again as Americans continue to give back almost $19.5 billion in unused vacation time to their employers, according to the second annual study commissioned by Expedia.com, the nation's largest online travel agency.

For the second year in a row, the survey revealed that American workers do not take advantage of their vacation days primarily because they feel too busy to take a vacation. Americans currently neglect an average of 1.8 vacation days per year and wish they could take more of their current paid vacation days available.

But Expedia's report shows that there's hope. While it revealed Americans returning billions of dollars to their employers in unused vacation time, they want to make a change. In fact, 57 percent of respondents indicated they plan to take all their vacation days this year, in an effort to prioritize rest, relaxation and spending time with loved ones.

"Consumers seem conflicted regarding downtime. While many Americans feel too busy to take vacation, the desire to utilize it has become a top priority," said Erik Blachford, president of Expedia North America. "Expedia.com wants to do everything possible to help Americans overcome 'Vacation Deprivation' by offering rich vacation planning solutions providing convenience, flexibility and savings in one place."

"Workplace stress can take its toll. In order to maintain a strong state of mental health, the human body needs a release and a source of replenishment," according to Dr. Dorothy Cantor, president of the American Psychological Foundation and author of What Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up? "An ideal vacation should eliminate stress, encourage relaxation and provide opportunities for rejuvenation, making the benefits of the experience immeasurable."

The study was conducted earlier in 2002 by TeleNation, a service of the Marketing Facts, an independent market research and polling firm.

Previous article

May 31 2001 - Americans take the fewest annual vacation days in the industrialized world:

Average annual vacation days taken

Italy 42 - France 37 - Germany 35 - Brazil 34
Britain 28 - Canada 26 - South Korea 25 - Japan 25
U.S. 13

Source: World Tourism Organization

One in six U.S. employees are unable to use up their entitlement because of overwork. This is the conclusion of a landmark national survey released in February.

"If you take off a week, you've got three times as much work to do when you get back," said Bob Boudreau, 42, a computer analyst in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who has gone without a vacation in two of the last four years.

Sheri Hinshaw, 31, of Seattle, Wash., quit her job, partly because she hasn't been able to take a vacation in five years. She remembers thinking, "I can't go -- I've got too many things to do." She recently left her job as a program manager at Microsoft and took a less demanding position overseeing computers for the Seattle Opera in order to "have a life" and possibly take a vacation next summer.

"This survey is a wakeup call for Americans to realize that taking a vacation is not frivolous behavior. It's essential to staying healthy," said Alan Muney, M.D., chief medical officer and executive vice president at Oxford Health Plans, Inc., which sponsored the national survey. "Regular vacations are preventive medicine - they cut down on stress-related illness and save health care dollars."

The report of 632 men and women shows that workers often endure a high level of stress on the job:

* 34% of respondents said their jobs were so pressing that they had no down time at work;
* 32% work and eat lunch at the same time;
* 32% do not leave the building during the working day;
* 19% said that their job makes them feel older than they are;
* 17% said work caused them to lose sleep at home.

The report also showed that:

* Most employers make it easy to keep medical appointments (70%) and return to work after illness (68 percent) - but some have a corporate culture that discourages healthy behavior;
* 19% said workplace pressures make them feel they must attend work even when injured or sick;
* 17% said it is difficult to take time off or leave work in an emergency;
* 8% believe that if they were to become seriously ill they would be fired or demoted;
* 14% believe their employer makes it difficult to maintain a healthy diet;
* 14% felt that company management only promotes people who habitually work late.

Stress may be relieved by taking a vacation but there is another motivating factor - medical research linking vacation to a lowered risk of death, commented to Dr. Muney. "Taking a vacation is a serious health issue that should not be ignored. It could save your life," he said. In fact researchers at the State University of New York at Oswego published a study in Sept. 2000 based on 12,866 men, aged 35 to 57, that found regular vacations lowered risk of death by almost 20%.

The random telephone survey was conducted from Aug. 17 - Sept. 1, 2000 by Central Marketing Inc. of New York City with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

More recently a survey conducted for Expedia.com (R) found an average of 1.8 unused vacation days per employee each year in the US. They calculate this to be worth $19.3 billion a year to their employers. Yet 71% of the workers surveyed wished that their employers gave an extra week's paid vacation each year. And 53% of respondents did not know that US employees receive considerably less annual vacation time than their counterparts in other industrialized countries.

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