‘Travel Therapy’ Touted as a Way to Improve Mental Health

Travel Therapy © Photo Jens Büttner/picture-alliance/Cover Images

Tourism can boost your mental health, according to scientists.

Travelling could help those with mental health and degenerative brain conditions, new research has found.

A new cross-disciplinary paper from Edith Cowan University (ECU)—published in collaboration between ECU’s Centre for Precision Health and School of Business and Law—suggests we change the way we look at tourism so that we view it as a way to improve our health, as well as a chance to get away and relax. The study found that by changing our point of view, it can provide real health benefits.

Dr. Jun Wen led a diverse team of tourism, public health and marketing experts who investigated how tourism could benefit those living with dementia.

“Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment,” Dr. Wen said. “These are
all also often found when on holidays.”

Dr. Wen said being in new environments and having new experiences could provide cognitive and sensory stimulation. He also shared that this research is among
the first to discuss how tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia interventions.

“Exercise has been linked to mental wellbeing and travelling often involves enhanced physical activity, such as more walking,” Dr. Wen added. “Mealtimes are often different on holiday: they’re usually more social affairs with multiple people and family-style meals have been found to positively influence dementia patients’ eating behaviour. And then there’s the basics like fresh air and sunshine increasing vitamin D and serotonin levels.”

The scientist said he hopes a new line of collaborative research can enhance the lives of people with various mental health conditions.

“Tourism has been found to boost physical and psychological well being,” he explained. “So, after COVID, it’s a good time to identify tourism’s place in public health—and not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups.”

Going forward, Dr. Wen is hopeful for a new line of collaborative research that could begin to examine how tourism can enhance the lives of people with various conditions.

“We are trying to do something new in bridging tourism and health science,” he explained. “There will have to be 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 travelling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society.”

The paper was published in the journal Tourism Management.

(Source: Reuters)

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