And that makes American workers the most vacation-deprived in the world, according to a study commissioned by Expedia.com.
Expedia.com's sixth annual Vacation Deprivation Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive and Ipsos Reid, found that the number of unused vacation time in 2006 increased by one additional day over the last year, boosting the number of total vacation days by more than 150 million. Such figures have given the United States the dubious distinction of being the country with the worst vacationing habits.
The survey found that the France, Germany and Australia scored the highest in receiving and using up their vacation days. Employed adults in France received an average of 39 days of vacation each year, with 40 percent taking a three- to four-week vacation during the summer months.
In Germany, the average employed adult used 26 of their 27 vacation days, placing vacation as a priority over work (72 percent say they have not cancelled or postponed vacation plans in the past due to work), and investing in their vacations (51 percent feel that a good performance-to-price ratio is far more important than just buying the vacation at the lowest price).
Meanwhile, 38 percent of employed U.S. adults report regularly working more than 40 hours per week. Many Americans, though, agree that vacations are necessary for their emotional and mental well-being. As much as 36 percent of Americans surveyed reported that they felt better about their job and more productive upon returning from vacation.
"Vacation deprivation in America is at an all-time high," says Sally McKenzie, vice president and general manager of Expedia.com. "There are incredible health and wellness benefits associated with time off from work. Americans should take a cue from their foreign counterparts and relish the vacation they earn."
Medical Expert: Vacation Time Saves Health Care Dollars
Several studies have demonstrated that taking regular vacation time can be preventative medicine.
Researchers using the Framingham Heart Study data in 1992 published a study of 749 women between the ages of 45 through 64 and found that frequent vacations cut the risk of death among all women by half.
Another study from the State University of New York at Oswego published in 2000 found that regular vacations lowered the risk of death by almost 20 percent in 35- to 57-year-old men.
Many American employees are finding that their job demands prevent them from taking the vacation time they are entitled to. Another survey conducted by Oxford Health Plans in February 2000 reported that one in six employees are so overworked they are unable to use up their annual vacation despite having the least vacation time in the industrialized world (Americans receive an average of 14 vacation days per year).
Alan Muney, M.D., Oxford's chief medical officer, said vacations are necessary as "they cut down on stress-related illness and save health care dollars."