September 2, 2011
Insomnia Costs US Employers $63 Billion Per Year
Nearly one-in-four U.S workers are affected by insomnia, costing the nation $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a report from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published Thursday in the journal Sleep.
The study found that, on average, U.S. workers lose 11.3 days of productivity each year due to insomnia.
"We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person's life," said Dr. Ronald Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist with the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study.
"It's an underappreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia. 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."
The researchers surveyed 7,428 employed people throughout the U.S., and found that 23.2 percent experienced some form of insomnia, such as difficulty falling asleep or nighttime waking, at least three times a week during the previous month.
Insomnia was also found to be significantly lower (14.3 percent) among workers age 65 and older, and higher among working women (27.1 percent) than working men (19.7 percent).
The study revealed a lower than average insomnia prevalence among respondents with less than a high school education (19.9 percent) and 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.
Kessler said accurate estimates on the costs of insomnia in the workplace might justify the implementation of screening and treatment programs for employees.
"Now that we know how much insomnia costs the American workplace, the question for employers is whether the price of intervention is worthwhile," said Kessler.
However, since insomnia is not typically considered the type of illness results in lost days at work, employers tend to ignore its consequences, he said.
The average cost of treating insomnia ranges from about $200 a year for a generic sleeping pill to up to $1,200 for behavioral therapy, according to study co-author James K. Walsh, Ph.D., executive director and senior scientist at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield, Missouri.
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