A large percentage of American workers won't take a vacation, even though they are given paid time-off by employers. This really isn't news, but many of us have always wondered why. The answer is because American workers are simply too scared and stressed out to go on vacation.

A recent survey from the US Travel Association and market research firm GfK found that about 40 percent of Americans will not be using all of their paid vacation days this year. The survey polled 1,303 workers, which includes 235 senior business leaders.

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When asked why they will not be taking vacation, respondents said they either dread the amount of work they will be returning to, or that no one else can fill their shoes while they are away. Researchers are calling this the "martyr complex," as they believe they are the only people who can do their jobs.

However, more than 20 percent of respondents said they don't take vacations because they don't want to become replaceable to employers.

Historically, these numbers are at all-time lows. In the 1970s, about 80 percent of workers took a week's vacation each year. Now, according to Vox, that number has dropped to just a bit more than half.

Employees aren't the only ones to blame. Two-thirds of respondents said the companies they work for send mixed messages about using paid time off or discourage it altogether. And, when they do take vacations, they are still plugged-in to work. Almost half of the leaders surveyed said they do respond to emails when they take time off, and 30 percent said they will take phone calls while on vacation.

“There’s this sense that the companies don’t really talk much about taking [time off],” said Chris Moessner, VP of public affairs at GfK. “Employees are hoping that senior business leaders start the conversation for them.”

Some American companies are starting to make changes to this workaholic culture which leaves employees too afraid to make use of their paid time off. TED, for example, has instilled mandatory vacations in which the entire office takes two-weeks off in the summer.

The benefits to taking time off are tremendous. Studies have shown that taking some time off work helps to boost productivity levels, as it leads to workers feeling refreshed and recharged when they return to the office.

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