Bioethics Blogs

Vacation as a Bioethical Issue

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

I have been on vacation. This is that mythical experience of leaving the everyday world, disappearing to another location, spending time learning/relaxing/experiencing/destressing, and then returning back to the real world. Unfortunately, few of us in the U.S. have jobs that offer such time and even fewer take advantage of these opportunities.

The United States has the least number of vacation days and holidays (in business-speak, “paid-time-off”) than any other industrialized nation.. U.S. law does not require employers to offer paid vacations, sick leave or holidays. We are also the only industrialized country without a national paid parental leave benefit.

We do generally get about 10 paid vacation days per year. When an American does have paid vacation, it averages about 2 weeks, far behind the requirmenets found in other industrialized countries. In most businesses, an employee can only carry over a certain number of vacation days from one year to the next. Anything over that limit that is not used is lost. Estimates hold that we gave away 169 million vacation days (unused) worth about $52.4 billion dollars. Those are dollars that our employers pocket.

Vacation time has many health benefits. Studies such as the Framingham study and the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial show that getting away from it all may decrease heart disease. People who take a break have lower rates of depression, less stress, and sharper mental acuity. Vacations build bonds between family and friends and increase productivity. (Yes, leaving the office can actually make you accomplish more).

The Organizations for Economic Co-Operation and Development shows that Americans work 1,789 hours per year.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.