Saturday, March 01, 2008

Does relaxation, not stress, make us sick?

The term is "leisure sickness," and the theory behind it is counterintuitive to say the least: It's not hard work and stress that make us vulernable to cold and flu viruses, but rather downtime that makes us sick.

The evidence cited by proponents of this theory boils down to this: Look at how often people get sick while they're off work.

Many are skeptical of this theory—including yours truly. I don't doubt the correlation between vacation time and getting sick, but I think the explanation has less to do with psychology and more to do with the reality of downtime: When we're off work, we're more likely to, say, get together with friends and family we don't see every day, or go places we don't normally go. In short, we're more likely to be exposed to new viruses and whatnot when we're off work.

Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where the cited study was performed.

—Mellow Monk

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