So often, we wear our busy and overworked lives like a badge of honor. We trade stories about missed vacations with the family, late nights at the office and lost sleep with the idea that the more we work, the better we’re doing. The thing is, nothing could be further from the truth. Taking vacations — both short breaks and longer stays — help us re-energize, re-focus and re-motivate ourselves, making us better, more productive employees, business owners and partners in the long run.

woman sunbathing in beach chair

A 2010 survey showed that, out of 18 accumulated vacation days, Americans only use 16. In 2013, Americans left a crazy 429 million paid time off days unused. In 2014? 42% of Americans claimed they didn’t take a single vacation day.

In fact, America is the only developed country on the planet that doesn’t require employers to give employees paid vacation days. This is in stark contrast to the 30 paid days off that Italians receive or the 35 that Austria mandates its citizens get. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s been shown that Europeans live longer and spend less on healthcare than Americans. After all, vitamin D is free.

There are real, measurable benefits for taking vacation days for the employee, the employer and the economy as a whole. We’re saying: Just like Shakira’s hips, the numbers don’t lie. For instance, it has been shown that not taking a vacation increases the likelihood for someone to become depressed and stressed. This, in turn, costs the American economy an estimated $23 billion dollars in depression-related absenteeism. So we either miss work to have fun on vacation or we miss work to stay home depressed and anxious — the choice couldn’t be clearer!

Additionally, if Americans used their vacation days, the US economy would benefit $160 billion in sales and $21 billion in tax revenue. It would also help create more jobs — like 1.2 million more jobs.

And while this should be common sense, it bears stating: Research shows that taking breaks from work makes people happier. Happier people are more productive, and more productive people are better employees. Priding yourself on being a hard, reliable worker is so important. But so is taking time for yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Are you headed anywhere fun on vacation? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know where you’re going!

(Photos via Getty)