Leisure Sickness: Why Do We Get Sick Right at the Start of Our Vacation?

Leisure Sickness: Why Do We Get Sick Right at the Start of Our Vacation?

Many people are familiar with this phenomenon: You've been looking forward to your well-deserved vacation for weeks, excitedly packing your bags - and right on cue, as your trip begins, you're struck by a cold, headache, or stomach issues. This widespread phenomenon is known as "Leisure Sickness." But why does our body give out precisely when we're supposed to be relaxing?

What is Leisure Sickness?

Leisure Sickness describes the phenomenon where people fall ill at the beginning of vacations, on weekends, or during other leisure periods. Typical symptoms include colds, headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, or even mild depression. The symptoms often appear suddenly as soon as the workload decreases and one is supposed to be relaxing.

Causes of Leisure Sickness

The exact causes of Leisure Sickness are not yet fully understood. However, experts believe it's a combination of various factors:

Hormonal Imbalance

The hormonal system plays an important role. During stressful work phases, our body produces more stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These keep us productive but simultaneously suppress inflammatory reactions and weaken the immune system. When stress suddenly subsides, a hormonal imbalance occurs. The immune system becomes active again and now fights accumulated pathogens - we get sick.

Overload of the Immune System

Chronic stress before vacation can permanently strain and weaken the immune system. Studies show that immune function can be impaired after intense stress periods, such as exam times. When tension eases during vacation, the body becomes more susceptible to infections.

Psychological Factors

Psychological aspects also play a role. Many people tend to ignore or suppress symptoms of illness during work time. Only when they relax do they become aware of their body's signals. Moreover, the abrupt change from tension to relaxation can be stressful for some people.

Lifestyle Factors

Last but not least, behavioral changes during vacation can contribute to Leisure Sickness. Increased alcohol consumption, unusual diet, or jet lag can additionally strain the immune system.

Who is Particularly at Risk?

Studies show that certain groups of people are more often affected by Leisure Sickness:

  • People with high workloads
  • Perfectionists with high success drive
  • Individuals with a strong sense of responsibility
  • People who have difficulty switching off

Thus, performance-oriented individuals who struggle to detach from work even in their free time are particularly at risk.

Strategies Against Leisure Sickness

There are various approaches to prevent Leisure Sickness:

Stress Reduction in Daily Life

Try to reduce stress in your everyday work life. Regular breaks, relaxation exercises, or sports can help lower stress levels and strengthen the immune system.

Gentle Transition into Vacation

If possible, plan a gentle transition into your vacation. Reduce your workload in the days before departure and take time to "wind down."

Mindfulness for Body Signals

Learn to perceive and take seriously the signals of your body. Don't ignore signs of exhaustion or incipient illnesses.

Healthy Vacation Routines

Even on vacation, ensure sufficient sleep, a balanced diet, and moderate physical activities. This supports your immune system.

Mental Preparation

Prepare mentally for the vacation period. Accept that it may take a few days until you can really switch off.


Leisure Sickness is a widespread phenomenon that can significantly disrupt long-awaited vacations. The causes are diverse, ranging from hormonal changes to psychological factors. However, with conscious stress reduction in everyday life, a gentle transition into vacation, and mindful attention to one's own needs, the risk can be significantly reduced.

Ultimately, Leisure Sickness is often a wake-up call from our body, showing us that we need to take better care of ourselves in everyday life and plan regular recovery phases. By learning to reduce stress and pay attention to our health, we can not only prevent Leisure Sickness but also achieve greater overall well-being and quality of life.