Stress reduction benefits of time off don’t last for most workers
After that long-awaited summer vacation, you return to the office relaxed, recharged and ready to dive back into work … right? Maybe not, according to a recent American Psychological Association [APA] survey which showed that, for many in the U.S., the benefits of time away from work may fade even before that vacation suntan.
The APA’s 2018 Work and Well-Being survey was conducted online earlier this year. It included just over 1,500 American adults who reported being employed full time, part time or self-employed. The annual survey provides a snapshot of the U.S. workforce, including overall employee well-being along with Americans’ attitudes and opinions related to workplace policies and practices. Among other things, this year’s survey asked specifically about the effects of time off on employees’ well-being.
Nearly a quarter of working adults surveyed [24 percent] said the positive effects of vacation time – such as more energy and feeling less stress – disappear immediately upon returning to work. Another 40 percent said those benefits last only a few days.
The majority of working Americans surveyed did report positive effects – however fleeting they may be – of taking vacation time, though, saying their mood is more positive when they return to work [68 percent], they have more energy [66 percent] and are more motivated [57 percent]. Many also reported that following time off, they are more productive [58 percent] and their work quality is better [55 percent].
Despite those positives, about one in five [21 percent] said they feel tense or stressed out while on vacation; more than a quarter [28 percent] said they wind up working more than they planned to during the vacation, and 42 percent reported that they dread returning to work afterward.
“People need time off from work to recover from stress and prevent burnout,” said David W. Ballard, PsyD, who leads APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “But employers shouldn’t rely on the occasional vacation to offset a stressful work environment. Unless they address the organizational factors causing stress and promote ongoing stress management efforts, the benefits of time off can be fleeting. When stress levels spike again shortly after employees return to work, that’s bad for workers and for business.”
Significantly, less than half [41 percent] of the workers surveyed said their organization’s culture encourages employees to take time off. Even fewer – 38 percent – said their supervisor encourages them to take vacations.
Be aware of the facts about meningitis vaccines
National Immunization Awareness Month is observed every August, to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. For parents of older teens headed off to college or preparing to do so in the next few years, this includes the importance of having their children vaccinated against meningococcal disease.
Although relatively uncommon, meningococcal infections are extremely dangerous. They can cause bacterial meningitis, a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord that can rapidly become life-threatening and cause death or permanent disability. With many young people living together in the close quarters of college dorms, the risk of meningitis outbreaks rises somewhat compared to the general population, as the bacteria are spread by close personal contact.
Two kinds of meningococcal vaccines are currently given to children in the United States:
1. The meningococcal conjugate vaccine [brand names Menactra® and Menveo®] protects against four types of meningococcal bacteria called types A, C, W, and Y. It is recommended for all kids.
2. The meningococcal B, or MenB, vaccine [brand names Bexsero® and Trumenba®] protects against a fifth type of meningococcal bacterium called type B. It is a fairly new vaccine in the U.S. and is not yet recommended as a routine vaccination by the CDC, but is given to some kids and teens ages 16 through 23 who may be at increased risk for meningococcal disease, or during an outbreak of meningitis B.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccines may be given beginning when a child is 11 or 12 years old, with a booster at age 16. Those who receive their first dose between the ages of 13 and 15 should get a booster dose between the ages of 16-18. Teens who get their first dose after age 16 do not need a booster dose before they leave for college or the military.
Young people with certain risk factors, such as some types of immune system disorders, should also get a full series of the MenB vaccine. The preferred age range for getting this vaccine is 16-18 years, although it may also be given to younger children depending on an individual’s health circumstances. Two or three doses are needed depending on the brand given. Ultimately, the decision whether to have the MenB vaccine should be made together by the teen, his or her parents, and the doctor.
Heart attack risk on the rise for women during, after pregnancy
The risk of having a heart attack during pregnancy, while giving birth, or in the two-month period after delivery is increasing for American women, a new study recently found.
Led by researchers from the NYU School of Medicine, the study included an analysis of nearly 50 million hospital births which took place from 2002 to 2014. It found that the overall risk of suffering a heart attack among pregnant women rose by 25 percent during that period.
Cardiologists involved with the study said that women having children at an older age is one possible reason for the increase, as overall heart attack risk rises with age. An increasing number of women also have diabetes or obesity, other important risk factors for heart attacks, they added. Another factor that may explain the rising numbers is that improved technologies have made heart attacks of any severity easier to detect.
“Our analysis, the largest review in a decade, serves as an important reminder of how stressful pregnancy can be on the female body and heart, causing a lot of physiological changes, and potentially unmasking risk factors that can lead to heart attack,” said senior investigator Dr. Sripal Bangalore, an interventional cardiologist at NYU’s Langone Health.
Bangalore added that although the absolute numbers of heart attacks remain low – increasing from 7.1 for every 100,000 pregnancies in 2002 to 9.5 for every 100,000 pregnancies in 2014 – the death rate remained unchanged at 4.5 percent of cases, despite advances in treating heart attacks with drug-coated stents and improved use of blood-thinning medications to prevent heart blockages.
When the study data was analyzed by the womens’ age during pregnancy, a woman between the ages of 35 to 39 was five times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a woman in her twenties. Women in their early to mid-forties were found to be at 10 times higher risk.
The findings highlight the importance to women considering pregnancy of knowing their risk factors for heart disease beforehand, the study’s authors said. Patients considered at high risk should work out a plan with their doctors to closely monitor their heart health both during and after pregnancy.
Data for the study, which was published online in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, came from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s National Inpatient Survey.
Meditation shown to reduce stress, improve brain function
The practice of meditation is on the rise as more and more people claim that its benefits – including reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, increased focus and awareness, better cardiovascular health and many others – are improving their day-to-day lives.
Recently, a study conducted among school district personnel in San Francisco attempted to measure those benefits scientifically, by studying the brain patterns of meditating adults using electroencephalogram [EEG] readings. The study found that over a four-month period, those who practiced the Transcendental Meditation [TM] technique experienced significant decreases in psychological distress along with improved brain function compared to others who did not meditate. This study is the largest randomized trial conducted to date investigating the impact of TM on brain functioning.
The brain patterns of those participating in the study were measured using the Profile of Mood States [POMS], a psychological rating scale used to assess distinct mood states, and the Brain Integration Scale [BIS], which is designed to show the level of connectivity between brain areas. After a few months of meditating regularly, TM participants showed a significant overall decrease on the POMS Total Mood Disturbance scale, as well as lower levels of anxiety, anger, depression, fatigue and confusion measured by POMS subscales. They also showed significant increases on the POMS “vigor” subscale – which measures energy, enthusiasm and general well-being – and significant increases in their BIS scores.
The study was conducted by the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education, a San Francisco-based nonprofit serving that area’s school communities.
On the calendar
The American Red Cross sponsors a community blood drive on Tuesday, Sept. 4 from 2-6 p.m. at the Kisker Road Branch Library, 1000 Kisker Road in St. Charles, in Meeting Room A & B. To schedule an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org.
• • •
BJC hosts A Day of Play, on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Siteman Cancer Center, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters. The free family-friendly event will feature bounce houses, edible art, face painting, free cholesterol and glucose screenings, food trucks and more.