Monday, December 23, 2013

Travel has benefit of improved health

Our “health insurance” kicks in again next month when we leave for another three months in Italy. I can say this because a recent study has linked travel to good health and long life. The Global Commission on Aging released a meta-analysis of existing academic and social research this month that links travel–and the activities associated with travel–with “positive health outcomes, including decreased risk of heart attack and depression and even the promotion of brain health.”

“Travel is good medicine,” explained Dr. Paul Nussbaum, president and founder of the Brain Health Center, Inc., and a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Because it challenges the brain with new and different experiences and environments, it is an important behavior that promotes brain health and builds brain resilience across the lifespan.”

The report says that people who travel are significantly more satisfied in mood and outlook compared to those who do not travel (86 percent compared to 75 percent). Further, 77 percent of Americans who travel report satisfaction with their physical health and well-being while only 61 percent of those who do not travel say the same. This is supported by the fact that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of survey respondents report walking more on trips and getting more exercise than they do at home.

One study found that women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year. Another study showed that men who did not take an annual vacation had a 20 percent higher risk of death and 30 percent greater risk of death from heart disease.
 
Just following my self-prescribed healthcare plan in Sardegna in 2012.
Benefits are almost immediate. After only a day or two, 89 percent of respondents saw significant drops in stress. Cognitive benefits are also cited: The novel and complex stimuli associated with travel, including navigating new places, meeting new people and learning about new cultures, can help delay the onset of degenerative disease.

“The phenomenon of longer lives applies to millennials as much as it does to baby boomers, and it requires us to think, plan and act differently,” said Michael W. Hodin, Ph.D., executive director of GCOA. “We are beginning to see this powerful relationship between travel and healthy aging, which should motivate us all to begin saving for it now.

“It is intuitive that if we stay healthy we will be able to travel in old age, but it is now becoming apparent the reverse might also be true: Travel and the numerous physical and mental benefits associated with it are drivers of health across all stages of life. Investing in travel could also be a worthwhile investment in healthy aging.”

I’m convinced! Hmm, now if I can just use this data to convince the IRS that our entire trip should be tax deductible under the category of health insurance.