‘Travel Therapy’: Could a vacation help with mental health and well-being?


Summary: Vacations aren’t just about having fun, they can also provide mental and general health benefits.

Source: Edith Cowen University

Many of us have probably heard of music therapy and art therapy, but what about “travel therapy”?

A new interdisciplinary paper from Edith Cowan University (ECU) proposes changing the way we think about tourism, seeing it not just as a recreational experience, but as an industry that can bring real health benefits.

The collaboration between ECU’s Center for Precision Health and the School of Business and Law revealed that many aspects of vacations could have a positive impact on people with mental health issues or conditions.

Lead researcher Dr Jun Wen said the diverse team of tourism, public health and marketing experts studied how tourism could benefit people with dementia.

“Medical experts may recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adaptations to the patient’s mealtimes and environment,” said said Dr. Wen.

“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.”

Pleasure of the holidays… or care?

Dr Wen said the varied nature of tourism meant there were many opportunities to incorporate treatments for conditions such as dementia.

For example, being in new environments and having new experiences could provide cognitive and sensory stimulation.

“Exercise has been linked to mental well-being, and travel often involves increased physical activity, such as more walking,” Dr. Wen said.

“Meal times are often different during holidays: they are usually more social affairs with several people and family-style meals have been shown 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.

“Whatever comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience makes it easy to see how patients with dementia can benefit from tourism as an intervention.”

A change of mentality

Dr Wen said the impact of COVID-19 on travel in recent years has raised questions about the value of tourism beyond lifestyle and economic factors.

Dr Wen said the varied nature of tourism meant there were many opportunities to incorporate treatments for conditions such as dementia. Image is in public domain

“Tourism has been found to improve physical and psychological well-being,” he said.

“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.”

Dr Wen said he hopes a new line of collaborative research can begin to look at how tourism can improve the lives of people with various conditions.

“We are trying to do something new by linking tourism and health sciences,” he said.

See also

This shows a woman rubbing her shoulder

“More empirical research and evidence is needed to see if tourism can become one of the medical interventions for different illnesses 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.

About this psychology and mental health research news

Author: Sam Jeremy
Source: Edith Cowen University
Contact: Sam Jeremic – Edith Cowen University
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Access closed.
Tourism as a treatment for dementia based on positive psychology” by Jun Wen et al. Tourism management


Tourism as a treatment for dementia based on positive psychology

No research in tourism or medicine has addressed the potential relationship between travel and the medical treatment of dementia. Given the increasingly important role of tourism in society, an interdisciplinary team of tourism and dementia experts provides insight into the potential benefits of tourism for people with dementia.

This conceptual effort critically reviews the literature on tourism and dementia and addresses relevant knowledge gaps. Tourism is presented as a possible means of improving the well-being of patients with dementia in addition to non-pharmacological interventions.

Accordingly, a conceptual framework is proposed to highlight the link between tourism experiences and dementia interventions.

Future directions for interdisciplinary research are also described.


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