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Insomnia is a $63-billion drag on the economy, study says

September 01, 2011|By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
  • Workers with insomnia cost the country $63 billion per year in lost productivity, according to a new study in the journal Sleep.
Workers with insomnia cost the country $63 billion per year in lost productivity,… (cjpg/zefa/Corbis )

Wake up and read this: Workers with insomnia are costing the country $63 billion in lost productivity each year, according to a new study.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of Michigan and elsewhere arrived at this figure by giving detailed questionnaires to more than 10,000 adults who were members of a large, nationwide health plan. The responses revealed that 23.2% of workers suffer from insomnia, as defined by psychiatrists and sleep experts. (Key factors include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and having sleep that isn’t restful or restorative.)

You might think that sleepy workers would be at greater risk of being absent from work, but the researchers found that about two-thirds of lost productivity due to insomnia can actually be traced to workers who show up but are not as productive as their rested peers. Among other problems, they make mistakes on the job or cause accidents.

On an individual level, each worker with insomnia was estimated to cost his or her employer $2,280 to $3,274 in lost productivity per year, on average. That figure is high enough to make companies at least consider the cost-effectiveness of implementing screening programs to find and treat workers with insomnia, the researchers said.

A few other interesting tidbits:

  • Women in the survey were more likely to have insomnia than men (27% vs. 20%).
  • People who were over the age of 65 were less likely to have insomnia than their younger counterparts (23.5% vs. 24.2%).
  • Insomnia was more prevalent among workers who had finished high school (25%) and attended some college (26%) than those who dropped out of high school (20%) or had graduated from college (22%).
The study was published in the Sept. 1 edition of the journal Sleep.

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