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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 00:26 GMT
Why we get ill at weekends
Many people find it hard to relax on holiday
People who get ill at the weekend or while on holiday may be suffering from a 'new' medical condition.

Researchers in the Netherlands say a significant proportion of the population is suffering from so-called leisure sickness.

They have found 3% of people become ill with a variety of different complaints as soon as they stop working and try to relax.


Relaxing can be very stressful for a lot of people

Prof Cary Cooper, ISMA
Symptoms like fatigue, muscular pains and nausea are most common at weekends.

Cold and flu-like symptoms are particularly common during holidays.

Researchers at Tilburg University surveyed 1,128 men and 765 women from across Holland.

Variety of symptoms

Approximately 3% of both men and women reported symptoms in line with the researchers' definition of leisure sickness.

In many cases, respondents had suffered from the condition for the past 10 years.

Most of those surveyed linked their symptoms to stress and difficulty 'switching off' when they took breaks form work.

The researchers found that those with a heavy workload or those who had a high sense of responsibility were most at risk.

They also found the personality traits were important particularly for people who find it difficult to relax.

The researchers said their findings highlighted the need for further studies to identify exactly why some people are affected in this way.

Immune response

Professor Cary Cooper, president of the International Stress Management Association, said he was not surprised by the findings.

"Relaxing can be very stressful for a lot of people. When they got off the treadmill of life their immune system collapses. Sometimes that is the only way they can relax.

"But leisure time can also be stressful because it means the day is unstructured, people have to re-establish relationships and spend time with their families.

"Many people are not used to this and find this stressful. That will have an impact on their immune systems."

The study is published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

See also:

17 Oct 02 | Health
14 Oct 02 | Business
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