Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2019;45(1):22-32    pdf full text

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3751

Does paid vacation leave protect against depression among working Americans? A national longitudinal fixed effects analysis

by Kim D

Objectives The United States is the only advanced economy globally that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation leave. Although empirical studies have linked paid vacation leave to happiness and stress, no study has investigated the association between paid vacation leave and depression. Using a nationally-representative longitudinal sample of 3380 working men and women aged 45–52 years from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, this study explored whether paid vacation leave may protect against depression.

Methods Multivariate linear and logistic regression models were employed to estimate the impacts of the number of annual paid vacation days of leave measured at age 40 on depression measured using the 7-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale short form (CES-D-SF) scale at age 50. Models were adjusted for demographic and socioeconomic factors, physical health, weekly hours, and individual fixed effects.

Results For every ten additional days of paid vacation leave, the odds of depression in women was 29% lower [odds ratio (OR) 0.71, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.55–0.92, P=0.01); there was no association in men. Linear regression models showed no association in either men or women. For every 10 days of paid leave, the odds of depression were 36% lower in White women and 38% lower in women with ≥2 children.

Conclusions This study provides the first evidence on the linkage between paid vacation leave and depression, and supports a protective effect in White women with ≥2 children. Should this association be truly causal, and assuming a uniform effect across all ages in working adult women, the results from this study would suggest that a hypothetical increase in the average number of days of paid vacation leave of 10 days could avoid an estimated 568 442 cases of depression in women each year and lead to a cost savings of US$2.94 billion annually. Policies that mandate paid vacation leave may have marked positive impacts on the population health and economic burden of depression among working women in the USA.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 2018;44(3):239-250