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Leisure sickness

If you’ve been looking forward to a holiday, only to fall ill with some poorly-defined malady in its first days, you may have become a victim to a recently named syndrome, leisure sickness. The condition has been identified by the Dutch psychologist Professor Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University. There are two varieties. One refers to symptoms — which can include nausea, fatigue, headaches, and recurrent infections — that appear whenever the stress of the working week is suddenly removed, either at the weekend or at the beginning of holidays. The other sort is found among men and women who have become tired of the rat race and who have downshifted to enjoy a quieter life, only to find themselves suffering from these recurrent minor illnesses plus boredom and depression, another name for which is underload syndrome (an older generation would have named it ennui, an expressive word that has rather gone out of fashion). Whatever it’s called, few of us need worry about the risks of getting it: research evidence suggests it’s mainly found among high-achieving men and women and that only 3% of those surveyed have experienced it.

The researchers, who presented their findings at a recent meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, determined that people who are perfectionists, carry large workloads and feel very responsible for their work are more apt to suffer from these symptoms, termed “leisure sickness.”

Psychology Today, 1 July 2001

Those lazy days on the croquet lawn can also make you ultra-responsive to physiological signals of illness. The Dutch psychologist Ad Vingerhoets coined the phrase “leisure sickness” after studying 2,000 people who became ill when they had little to do.

Independent, 5 Apr. 2003

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 21 Jun. 2003

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 21 June 2003.