Why wanderlust is good for you, study shows (here's to the end of the pandemic!)

Alexandra Thompson
·3-min read
A sunset as seen from an airplane.
Regular holidays may boost mental health, a study has suggested. (Stock, Getty Images)

For now, as we muddle through lockdown three, it is the stuff of dreams – travelling.

But the approval of two vaccines to tackle the pandemic is allowing us to imagine a summer where that may once more become a reality.

And, research suggests, those of us who do then choose to travel will be happier than those who opt to stay put.

Scientists from Washington State University have reported people who regularly travel at least 75 miles (120.7km) from home are around 7% happier than their less adventurous counterparts.

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Portrait of young Asian tourist woman with mask for protection from corona virus outbreak social distancing at the airport
The coronavirus pandemic has put many people's travel plans on hold. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)

“While things like work, family life and friends play a bigger role in overall reports of wellbeing, the accumulation of travel experiences does appear to have a small yet noticeable effect on self-reported life satisfaction,” said study author Chun-Chu Chen, an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management.

“It really illustrates the importance of being able to get out of your routine and experience new things.”

Read more: ‘Forgo foreign holidays’ says leading scientist

Amid England’s third lockdown, the public has been told not to travel abroad unless they have a “legally permitted reason to do so”, like an essential work trip.

Travellers entering the UK from abroad may also soon have to prove they have tested negative for the coronavirus.

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Previous research has suggested a single holiday may help to relieve stress, however, the benefits of sustained travel were less clear.

To learn more, 500 people from Taiwan were asked how important travelling was to them, as well as how much time they spent organising holidays and the number of trips they took a year pre-pandemic.

The participants were also asked about their overall life satisfaction.

Results, published in the journal Tourism Analysis, suggest those who reported regularly travelling at least 75 miles from home claimed to be around 7% happier than the participants who went away very rarely or not at all.

“Attaching personal importance to tourism” led to the participants being “more likely to gather travel-relevant information, resulting in more frequent travels”, wrote the scientists.

“These findings suggest travel and tourism can be an important life domain affecting how people evaluate their overall quality of life,” they added.

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The results also suggest just talking about a possible holiday increases the chance it will eventually come to fruition.

Paying attention to the latest goings on in the tourism industry and discussing new destinations with friends were also linked to more regular trips abroad.

“This research shows the more people talk about and plan vacations the more likely they are to take them,” said Chen.

“If you are like me and chomping at the bit to get out of Dodge and see someplace new, this research will hopefully be some additional good motivation to start planning your next vacation.”

Off the back of their results, the scientists are encouraging travel companies, resorts and airlines to launch social media campaigns that highlight the medical benefits of going on holiday.

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