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Pilgrimage is good for employees, study concludes

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a holy mass for sick and disabled people in front of the Rosary Basilica, Lourdes. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Employees benefit from emotional retreats, says academic

A three-year study by the Universities of Lancaster and Strathclyde has concluded that going on pilgrimage to places such as Lourdes has considerable benefits for one’s mental and physical health by acting against workplace stress.

Dr Leighanne Higgins of Lancaster University led the study, which conducted interviews with pilgrims and found that “emotional tourism” can be more effective than traditional therapeutic methods. The study’s conclusion led Dr Higgins to suggest that companies consider sending their employees to places such as Lourdes when those workers are struggling.

Dr Higgins told the Daily Telegraph: “Our research is helpful because it can show how businesses can cultivate emotions to promote well-being, especially when society tells us these emotions should not be displayed or shared in public.

“Therapeutic servicescapes could be helpful for personal and/or company retreats or employee training to help with workplace stress, anxiety and mental health well-being.

“Likewise they could be helpful for companies wishing to build such a service experience to help promote emotional well-being.

“Religious landscapes have a unique foothold in the market, and it is likely that we will see demand for pilgrimages continue to increase.”

She added: “These environments are seen as safe spaces. We are witnessing unprecedented levels of mental health issues and our research uncovers consumers dealing with emotional suffering beyond traditional and private therapy sessions.”

The study also suggested that such retreats are more beneficial for men than women. Men are more “straight-jacketed” at home, so find a greater sense of emotional release when on retreat.