Insomnia is leading cause of lost productivity

Insomnia is leading cause of lost productivity

By William Smith

Many people have difficulty in getting to sleep at night.  Many people who are suffering from poor mental health find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep and people who struggle with lack of sleep report psychological and emotional effects.  A new study shows that insomnia (chronic lack of sleep) is having a massive impact on the economy.

Insomnia is costing the average worker 11.3 days, or approximately £1,400 in lost productivity every year.  This equates to billions for the nation as a whole.

Lead author, Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D. said ‘We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life.  It’s an underappreciated problem.'

He goes on to illustrate that it is not the 'lost' days work that are the problem, it is in fact the lost productivity when people are working but suffering the effects of sleep deprivation: 'They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired.  In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.’

America based researchers asked participants about sleep habits and work performance among other things in a national survey of nearly 7,500 employees.

Previous estimates have depended on small consumer panels and on medical and pharmacy claims databases focused on treated insomnia patients, so this research is the biggest study of it's kind.

The researchers found that:

  • 23.2% of employees report insomnia
  • 14.3% of workers aged 65 or older suffer with insomnia
  • 27.1% of working women report insomnia
  • 19.7% of working men report insomnia

Kessler said that accurate estimates on the costs of insomnia in the workplace might justify the implementation of screening and treatment programmes for employees.  'Insomnia is not considered to be an illness at least not the kind that results in lost days at work and therefore employers tend to ignore its consequences', Kessler added.

‘Now that we know how much insomnia costs the American workplace, the question or employers is whether the price of intervention is worthwhile,’ said Kessler.  Kessler is a psychiatric epidemiologist with the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.  He added ‘Can U.S. employers afford not to address insomnia in the workplace?’

A closer review of the findings revealed that level of education appears to have some connection with insomnia:

  • A lower than average insomnia prevalence among respondents with less than a high school education (19.9 percent);
  • A lower than average insomnia prevalence among college graduates (21.5 percent);
  • Those with a high school education (25.3 percent) or some college education (26.4 percent) showed higher rates of prevalent insomnia.

The study authors feel that their findings could help with direct intervention and even the prevention programming among populations that show a high prevalence of insomnia.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine  

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