According to a longitudinal study conducted by the World Health Organization, working long hours is associated with higher risks of heart disease, stroke and even premature death, while taking sufficient time off can help with health and longevity.

The study, conducted over a 40-year period, initially aimed at measuring how the rates of cardiovascular disease changed as a result of a healthy lifestyle. The study’s results after five years demonstrated that participants who incorporated exercise into their lives, followed a healthy diet under the guidance of a specialist and quit smoking had a 46% lower risk of developing heart-related problems in that timespan.

However, after 15 years of monitoring participants, researchers discovered that premature death rates were still prevalent among some, despite the change to healthier habits. The culprits: Long working hours and few days off.

Specifically, the researchers found that people who take vacation days for less than three weeks a year face a 37% higher risk of premature death, regardless of how healthy their overall lifestyle habits are.

Such data were corroborated by earlier findings which revealed that two weeks of annual leave, split into five short intervals throughout the year were associated with a 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

Researchers concluded that taking a break from working seemed to reverse the negative effects of daily stress, fostering a more optimistic attitude even a month after returning to work. They mentioned that three weeks away from the office is not a strict rule, as even taking a few days off can be beneficial.