Gap year-style breaks were enjoyed by only around 270,000 people from 1970-79, according to research from Santander Credit Cards.
This number rose to around 710,000 in the 1980s and soared to four million in the period 2000-10.
Since 2008, a total of 1.22 million Britons have taken a gap year break, a sabbatical or other lifestyle breaks.
These long breaks are still being taken mainly by students, with 25 per cent of students aged 18 and over saying they are currently planning such a break and 8 per cent of the population overall intending to take some time off.
Until now, 59 per cent of those taking gap year breaks took between six and 24 months off. But the duration of such breaks is likely to fall in the future with 66 per cent of those planning time away now expecting to take less than a year off and 23 per cent planning three months or less.
The chance to travel is the main reason for taking such breaks, the survey of 2,011 people found. They also relish the chance to work abroad or just to have a rest.
Regionally, Londoners appear to be keenest on an extended break with 14 per cent already planning one. In Wales, however, only 2 per cent have plans to take time out.
Ian Coles of Santander Cards, said: "Taking a break from work or education is becoming an increasingly appealing option for many Britons, as the job market becomes increasingly competitive and the demand for university places continues to soar.
"It's a great opportunity to travel and to learn but unfortunately it doesn't come cheap. With lifestyle breaks costing around 5,000 to 6,000 on average, it's important that people weigh up the costs and the benefits."