Research suggests good work life balance is more important than exercise or healthy diet

Middle aged couple look at map on holiday

If you want to live a long life it is advised to take at least three weeks holiday per year, according to research, presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference.

The research showed the results of a 40-year study which involved over a thousand middle aged men born between 1919 and 1934.

The study shows that while diet and exercise are important, they do not match taking time out to relieve stress when it comes to leading a long life.

Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki in Finland revealed that people who took fewer than three weeks off work per year died younger than those who took more.

The results showed that participants who took less than three weeks off were 37% more likely to die young over the next 30 years.

He 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.”

The 1,222 men involved in the study were all at risk of heart disease due to a variety of factors including high blood pressure, smoking and being overweight.

Half of the men were advised to live a healthier lifestyle – including getting more exercise, eating more healthily, getting into shape and quitting smoking. The other half were not given any advice.

Surprisingly, the half who were given regular advice on healthy living were more likely to die young than the half that was given no advice.

The researchers believe that the regular advice may have increased the amount of stress placed upon the first group of men.

Professor Strandberg said: “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.”