Going on a holiday can have a positive impact on an individual’s mental health and well-being, according to a new study. A new cross-disciplinary paper from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has proposed a change in the way we view tourism, seeing it not just as a recreational experience, but also as an industry that can provide real health benefits.
The collaboration between ECU’s Centre for Precision Health and the School of Business and Law found many aspects of going on holiday could have a positive impact on those with mental health issues or conditions.
Lead researcher Dr. Jun Wen said the diverse team of tourism, public health and marketing experts investigated how tourism could benefit those living with dementia.
“Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment,” Dr. Wen said, adding “These are all also often found on holidays.” This research is among the first to conceptually discuss how these tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia interventions.”
HOLIDAY FUN OR TREATMENT?
Dr Wen said the varied nature of tourism meant there were many opportunities to incorporate treatments for conditions such as dementia.
For example, being in new environments and having new experiences could provide cognitive and sensory stimulation.
“Exercise has been linked to mental wellbeing and travelling often involves enhanced physical activity, such as more walking. Mealtimes are often different on holidays: they’re usually more social affairs with multiple people, and family-style meals have been found to positively influence dementia patients’ eating behavior and then there’s the basics, like fresh air and sunshine, increasing vitamin D and serotonin levels,” he said.
“Everything that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience, makes it easy to see how patients with dementia may benefit from tourism as an intervention,” he further expressed.
A SHIFT IN THINKING
Covid-19’s impact on travel in recent years has raised questions about tourism’s value beyond lifestyle and economic factors.
“Tourism has been found to boost physical and psychological well being, so, after Covid-19, it’s a good time to identify tourism’s place in public health and not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups,” he said.
He hoped a new line of collaborative research could begin to examine how tourism can enhance the lives of people with various conditions and expressed, “We’re trying to do something new in bridging tourism and health science,” he said, adding, “There will have to be more empirical research and evidence to see if tourism can become one of the medical interventions for different diseases like dementia or depression; so, tourism is not just about travelling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society.”