Having friends and family come to stay is good for your health, according to one Ballarat researcher

FAMILY TOURISTS: A new study has found having family and friends visit has positive health benefits for most people, but in some cases it can add stress to our lives.
FAMILY TOURISTS: A new study has found having family and friends visit has positive health benefits for most people, but in some cases it can add stress to our lives.

Having family or friends come to stay might sound stressful, but research has found it’s actually good for your health and wellbeing … most of the time.

Federation University’s Associate Professor of tourism and management Dr Elisa Backer has found visiting or being visited by relatives or friends can actually improve quality of life.

“The research revealed that in general, people greatly treasured the opportunity to catch up with important people in their lives and create precious memories,” Dr Backer said.

The downside occurred when hosts did not have a spare room or space to host visitors.

“There were definitely cases that showed a reduction in quality of life, and there was a strong correlation between negative experiences and lack of space.”

“For people who did not have the space, such as a spare bedroom, or adequate bathroom facilities to host visitors, stress and conflict arose in some cases that resulted in negative experiences.”

Even when space was a problem, people treasured the social connection and the memories made during visits and this attitude allowed them to enjoy more positive benefits.

Understanding the potential stress could also lead to a more positive visit and a different attitude.

“We may select to stay in commercial accommodation when visiting friends or relatives to ensure the experiences provide more positive benefits and provide us with less conflict and stress,” she said.

“Or you could go out for dinner to reduce the stress of cooking rather than feeling burdened.”

Ballarat is a magnet for family and friends visiting residents with its packed calendar of festivals, sports and events.

Analysis of visitors to last year’s Ballarat Winter Festival found up to a third of participants came from out of town with many staying with friends and family to enjoy more of the city’s attractions.

We make these jokes about boring relatives and in-laws coming to stay … but we don’t actually know what the impact is on our quality of life.

Dr Elisa Backer

​Dr Backer is regarded as the leading world expert in visiting friends and relatives travel (VFR) research and her research, which surveyed 552 people across Australia, is the first to examine the relationship between quality of life and VFR travel.

For much of the past decade her work has focused on the economic impact of VFR travel, which accounts for about half of Australia’s domestic travel movements. But attending conferences and talking to peers, she realised there was another element to the research.

“We make these jokes about boring relatives and in-laws coming to stay … but we don’t actually know what the impact is on our quality of life.

“The World Health Organisation now sees quality of life as one if its key indicators. It used to focus on physiological health but we now realise health is more complex than that … it’s about wellbeing, happiness, loneliness, stress, and how we feel about our own health rather than just numbers.”

Her research has been published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management.