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One in six U.S. employees is so overworked that he or she is unable to use up annual vacation time, despite the fact that Americans have the least vacation time in the industrialized world, according to the results of a landmark national survey.
"This survey is a wakeup call for Americans to realize that taking a vacation is not frivolous behavior. It’s essential to staying healthy," says Alan Muney, MD, chief medical officer and executive vice president at Oxford Health Plans, which sponsored the national survey. "Regular vacations are preventive medicine; they cut down on stress-related illness and save health care dollars."
On the job, workers often endure a high level of stress, the national survey of 632 men and women shows. Some 34% report they have such pressing jobs that they have no downtime at work. A full 32% work and eat lunch at the same time. Meanwhile, 32% never leave the building once they arrive at work; 19% say their job makes them feel older than they are, and 17% say work causes them to lose sleep.
Oxford’s survey found one in six American workers (18%) is unable to use up annual vacation time due to job demands. This is true despite the fact that Americans are the most vacation-starved people in the industrialized world, according to the World Tourism Organization.
The survey showed that while most employers make it easy to keep medical appointments (70%) and return to work after illness (68%), other companies exude a corporate culture that discourages healthy behavior. Some 19% of survey respondents said workplace pressures make them feel they must attend work even when injured or sick; 17% said it is difficult to take time off or leave work in an emergency, and 8% contend that if they became seriously ill they would be fired or demoted. The survey also showed that 14% think their employer makes it difficult to maintain a healthy diet and 14% feel company management only promotes people who habitually work late.
While stress relief is a benefit of taking a vacation, another motivating factor is medical research that links vacation to a lowered risk of death, Muney notes. "Taking a vacation is a serious health issue that should not be ignored. It could save your life."
About a third of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome will see their symptoms resolve spontaneously without treatment, according to Italian researchers at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in San Francisco. They studied 354 patients at eight hospitals in Italy. Of that group, the surgeons left more than 200 patients largely untreated over the course of 12 months. Instead of surgery, these subjects used anti-inflammatory medication for pain relief. By the end of the study, reports from untreated patients and tests of nerve function in the wrist showed that symptoms had improved in 34% and worsened in 21%.
The researchers concluded that surgery may be overused as a treatment strategy for carpal tunnel syndrome. In particular, the data suggest that younger patients are more likely to improve without surgery. The odds of spontaneous improvement decrease about 4% for each year that a patient is older. Patients with symptoms in only one hand also were more likely to improve without treatment.
Allergen exposure has a negative impact on the quantity and quality of work among those with allergic rhinitis or asthma, researchers reported recently at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) Annual Meeting in Ann Arbor, MI.
Researchers analyzed the effects of pollen and mold exposure on work performance using data from the National Survey of Daily Experiences (NSDE). The survey reached 739 employed respondents, including 81 patients with allergic rhinitis, 75 with asthma, and 32 with both allergic rhinitis and asthma. Each respondent assessed impairments in work on a daily basis for a randomly assigned week.
Quality of work was assessed by self-report on reduction in work during the week. Work quantity was assessed by three questions including a one to 10 scale rating the magnitude of the work reduction. Pollen and mold count data from the AAAAI’s National Allergy Bureau were merged with the NSDE data to assess the association of pollen and mold exposure with daily work quality and quantity. Researchers said grass pollen exposure and amount of circulating allergens are strong predictors of work impairment.
Researchers concluded that the results reflect the strong association between allergen exposure and its impact on both the quantity and the quality of work among those with allergic rhinitis or asthma and is particularly strong among those with both disorders.