The biology of travel

Upper-class Georgian and Victorian folk – including the British royal family – are known to have expended a lot of energy taking in the healing air of the coast. Doctors don’t frequently prescribe travel as an alternative treatment for ailments any longer, but they could soon well be.

As a medical researcher I’ve always been interested in the indirect or unexpected effects of a treatment (or policy) on physiology and psychology. For instance, it has just been reported that increasing the taxes on packets of cigarettes decreases alcohol consumption.

Travel has been shown – by ‘proper’ peer-reviewed experiments published in scientific journals – to have a variety of biologically recordable benefits, in addition to more ethereal benefits such as expanding personal horizons and reducing prejudices.

The headline grabber is that taking an annual holiday pretty much anywhere reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack by half. This is perhaps because travel is shown to improve the circulation of blood around the body. Travel is also known to reduce levels of the body’s stress markers (presumably after we’ve left the airport), and also improves how couples feel about their marriage.

It would be easy to reel out further advantages of travel, but I think you get the point. Travel is good for you. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

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