Travel therapy: Vacations can benefit people with mental health issues

JOONDALUP, Australia — Have you ever wanted to go to the airport and spontaneously travel to a new place? Researchers at Edith Cowan University suggest that might not be such a crazy idea. Similar to music therapy or art therapy, scientists say travel therapy can benefit people struggling with mental health issues.

The research team, a unique collection of tourism, public health and marketing experts, set out to analyze how tourism and vacations can benefit people with dementia.

“Medical experts may recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment” , lead researcher Dr. Jun Wen said in a statement. university outing. “These are all equally often found during holidays. This research is among the first to conceptually discuss how these tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia interventions.

Travel can stimulate the brain

According to Dr. Wen, the wide variety of potential destinations and attractions around the world translates into huge opportunities to integrate treatments for mental health conditions like dementia. For example, entering a new environment, and therefore having new experiences, facilitates both cognitive and sensory stimulation.

“Exercise has been linked to mental well-being, and travel often involves increased physical activity, such as more walking,” the study’s author explains. “Meal times are often different during holidays: they are usually more social affairs with several people and family-style meals have been found to positively influence the eating behavior of patients with dementia.”

“And then there are the basics like fresh air and sunshine that boost vitamin D and serotonin levels. All that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience makes it easy to see how dementia patients can benefit tourism as an intervention.

These findings seem particularly timely, given the global concerns the COVID-19 pandemic has raised among many travellers.

“Tourism has been found to improve physical and psychological well-being,” adds Dr. Wen. “So post-COVID is a good time to identify the place of tourism in public health – and not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups.”

In the future, Dr. Wen would like to see more collaborative research conducted to examine how tourism can improve the lives of people with various mental health conditions.

“We are trying to do something new by bringing together tourism and health sciences,” concludes the researcher. “It will take 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 traveling and having fun; we need to rethink the role that tourism plays in modern society.

The study is published in the journal Tourism management.


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