The Holiday Health Experiment
Good for the planet, good for people? New study to research impacts of volunteering on health.
Travel company Kuoni Travel has teamed up with Earthwatch and healthcare charity, Nuffield Health, to better understand the health impact of different types travel on personal well-being. People from across the UK will be encouraged to sign up to take part in The Holiday Health Experiment, which will seek to quantify the physiological and psychological changes following a holiday.
Volunteer radio-tracking cheetahs on Earthwatch expedition Cheetah Conservation in Namibia.
Participants will be asked to complete a survey which looks at their health and holiday habits. A final selection of these individuals will be shortlisted to undergo a series of clinical tests, and discussion sessions with a psychotherapist, before, during and after going on a Kuoni holiday this summer.
The experiment will look at the effects ‘everyday life’ has on the body and mind and then compare the data with how different types of travel and holiday experiences influence mental and physical well-being.
One of the experiences on offer is an active conservation volunteering holiday with Earthwatch. Executive Vice President Nigel Winser says, “We are pleased to be collaborating with Kuoni on this important research. We have decades of anecdotal evidence supporting the power of being close to nature and involved in meaningful hands-on research. The initiative offers a way to begin to quantify these impacts and understand the short and long-term effects of volunteering on human health.”
This experiment is the first of its kind conducted by a UK travel company in conjunction with a medical team consisting of doctors, physiologists and further assistance from a leading psychotherapist. Six individuals selected will receive:
- Advanced Resilience Testing - Each individual will wear a small ECG monitor for three days and nights before the holiday, during, and after the holiday. By assessing each individuals heart rate variability, the relative activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems will be monitored to provide an insight into the impact of various stressors on the person’s body.
- Psychological Sessions - A series of one to one counseling sessions before and after the holiday with leading psychotherapist, Christine Webber, to look at stress, anxiety, mood, libido and all aspects of mental health in everyday life and across a holiday period. Each individual will also be asked to keep a mood diary before, during and after the holiday.
In addition, each individual will be given a Nuffield Health 360+ Health Assessment. This will look at their overall health and fitness and includes analysis of: Body Mass Index, waist/hip ratio, cholesterol, glucose, full blood profile, resting heart rate, blood pressures, ECG tests, hydration, alcohol units, caffeinated drinks, hours of sleep, sleep quality, nutritional status and aerobic fitness. Each individual will have time with a doctor to discuss the results.
The holiday types that will be compared are:
- An adventurous volunteering holiday - with a focus on travel to Africa with Earthwatch and Kuoni helping with pioneering research and conservation.
- A luxurious beach holiday - with a focus on relaxation, sand between the toes and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
- An exotic far-flung holiday - with a focus on travel to spell-binding Asia and the inspiration of ancient cultures and iconic sights.
Each recruit will be re-tested after the holiday and the data will be compared with the ‘pre-holiday’ clinical data to identify any changes. The results of the experiment will be launched in January 2013.
A ‘control group’ of six further individuals, with similar ages and lifestyles to the six selected to go on the holiday, will also undergo the clinical tests and discussion sessions so that further comparisons can be made when looking at the immediate and longer term impact of a holiday.
Says Chris Jones, Professional Head of Physiology at Nuffield Health: “On a day-to-day basis, our bodies give us many often subtle physical signals for stress or tiredness that may be caused by our busy modern lives and we all intuitively know that a holiday can help us re-charge our batteries.”
“This small, exciting case study experiment will give us an interesting insight into how different types of holidays may impact on a person’s general health and wellbeing. I am looking forward to analyzing the data from this unique experiment which will hopefully focus people’s minds on the importance of managing everyday stress and worries - perhaps from work, and ensure time is built into their busy lives to improve their wellbeing.”
Says Derek Jones, MD of Kuoni: “Anecdotally, we regularly hear from our customers about how restorative or life-changing a holiday can be. Our 2009/10 research showed us that 54% of the public take major life-changing decisions and act on them after a holiday. There is something about getting away from everyday life that helps us all think in a different way about our lives. We also know how refreshed people can look and feel after even a short break. We now want to tap into science to pick this apart and understand the mental and physiological changes we go through when away from the stresses of our everyday life. With 50 years of medical excellence and a wide range of leading doctors, physiologist and therapists, Nuffield Health are the perfect partner for us in this quest.”
Please note that participants must be British citizens, permanently resident in the UK or Eire.
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