Surprise! Europe is winning at life again.
Expedia's annual Vacation Deprivation Study -- which randomly surveyed 7,855 employed people across 24 countries in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and South America -- found that in 2014 Europeans got to enjoy almost twice as many vacation days as Americans.
According to the travel planning site's informal poll, the median number of vacation days allotted to Europeans was 28 days, and workers tended to take advantage of all or most of these. On average, residents of Denmark, France, Germany and Spain who spoke with Expedia said they vacationed for 30 of their 30 available vacation days this year. Austrians, Norwegians and Swedes took 25 of 25 days, U.K. residents took 25 of 26 and Italians took 21 of 28.
Americans, on the other hand, took an average of 14 of the 15 vacation days offered to them. And while this looks like a sorry state of affairs when compared to Europe, Expedia says it's actually an improvement from last year, when Americans took only 12 of their 14 vacation days.
But Americans apparently don't feel like they're being deprived of vacation time. Expedia found that only 54 percent of Americans polled said they were “very or somewhat vacation deprived." To put that into perspective, people from the United Arab Emirates were the most likely to feel vacation deprived (73 percent), even though they reported taking 30 of 30 available vacation days.
"Americans seem to see vacation as a guilty pleasure. The same is true of residents of many Asian countries," Expedia Senior Editor Sarah Gavin told The Huffington Post. "So Americans might not feel vacation deprived, since they feel guilty taking time off in the first place. The people who feel no guilt about taking a vacation are often the people who feel most deprived. The same sentiment was true last year, in fact. In the 2013 study, the French took 30 of 30 possible days, but 90 percent of the French either strongly or somewhat agreed with the sentence, 'I feel vacation deprived.'"
Excuses for not taking vacation days ranged from "work schedule does not allow for it” (19 percent) to “lack of money” (18 percent), per Expedia.
But no matter the reasons for not taking time off, vacation days can be beneficial to individuals' performance and a business' performance as a whole, and it's recommended that employed people make sure to enjoy themselves away from the office.
In an August blog post, HuffPost co-founder Arianna Huffington noted that 40 percent of Americans don't take all their paid vacation days and went on to emphasize the positive effects vacation time can have on productivity, as well as the negative effects of stress and overwork.
"We know, for instance, that, according to the World Health Organization, stress costs American businesses around $300 billion per year. Sleep deprivation tacks on another $63 billion," she wrote, adding later that "a 2006 internal study of Ernst and Young employees ... found that for every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took, his or her performance ratings went up by 8 percent -- nearly 1 percent per day of vacation."
Huffington concluded that it's important to recognize the necessity of taking a step back from the grind and enjoying ourselves a little more.
"We need to turn the incentive structure around," she said. "Overwork, exhaustion and burnout are what should be red-flagged and discouraged, and those employees who take all their paid vacation (in addition to leaving at a reasonable hour each night, eating lunch away from their desks, taking time throughout the day to recharge, etc.) are the ones who should be commended, promoted and held up as institutional role models."