‘Travel Therapy’: Can a Vacation Help With Mental Health and Well-Being?

Overview: Vacations may not only be an opportunity for recreation, they can also provide mental and general health benefits.

Source: Edith Cowen University

Many of us will probably have heard of music therapy and art therapy – but what about “travel therapy”?

A new cross-curricular paper from Edith Cowan University (ECU) proposes that we change the way we see tourism by seeing it not just as a recreational experience, but as an industry that can deliver real health benefits.

The collaboration between ECU’s Center for Precision Health and School of Business and Law showed that many aspects of going on holiday can have a positive effect on people with mental health problems or conditions.

Lead researcher Dr Jun Wen said the diverse team of tourism, public health and marketing experts explored how tourism can benefit people with dementia.

“Medical experts may recommend dementia treatments, such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adjustments to a patient’s meals and environment,” said Dr. wen.

“These are all often found on holiday.

“This research is one of the first to conceptually discuss how these tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia interventions.”

Holiday fun… or treatment?

dr. Wen said the diverse 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 can provide cognitive and sensory stimulation.

“Exercise has been linked to mental well-being, and travel is often associated with improved physical activity, such as walking more,” said Dr. wen.

“Meals are often different on holiday: they tend to be more social gatherings with several people and family-style meals have been shown to positively influence the eating behavior of dementia patients.

“And then there are the basics like fresh air and sunshine that increase vitamin D and serotonin levels.

“Everything that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience makes it easy to see how patients with dementia can benefit from tourism as an intervention.”

A shift in thinking

dr. Wen said the impact of COVID-19 on travel in recent years has raised questions about the value of tourism beyond lifestyle and economic factors.

dr. Wen said the diverse nature of tourism meant there were many opportunities to incorporate treatments for conditions such as dementia. Image is in the public domain

“Tourism appears to boost physical and psychological well-being,” he said.

“So after COVID, it is a good time to identify the place of tourism in public health – and not just for healthy tourists, but also for vulnerable groups.”

dr. Wen said he hoped a new line of collaborative research could begin to explore how tourism can improve the lives of people with various conditions.

“We’re trying to do something new in bridging tourism and health science,” he said.

Also see

This shows a woman rubbing her shoulder

“More empirical research and evidence will be needed to see if tourism can become one of the medical interventions for various diseases such as dementia or depression.

“So tourism is not just about traveling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society.”

About this news about psychology and mental health

Author: Sam Jeremic
Source: Edith Cowen University
Contact: Sam Jeremic – Edith Cowen University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Closed access.
“Tourism as dementia treatment based on positive psychology” by Jun Wen et al. Tourism Management


Tourism as dementia treatment based on positive psychology

No research in tourism or medicine has explored the possible relationship between travel and the medical treatment of dementia. Given the increasingly important role of tourism in society, a multidisciplinary team of tourism and dementia experts provides insight into the potential benefits of tourism for people with dementia.

This conceptual effort critically assesses the literature on tourism and dementia and addresses relevant knowledge gaps. Tourism is presented as a possible way to improve the well-being of dementia patients in addition to non-pharmacological interventions.

Accordingly, a conceptual framework is proposed to emphasize the connection between tourism experiences and dementia interventions.

Future interdisciplinary research directions are also described.

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