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Insomnia Costs U.S. Employers Billions in Lost Productivity

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Researchers from universities, hospitals, and companies in the U.S. and Europe calculated the lost productivity of Americans suffering from insomnia at an annual cost of $63.2 billion to employers. Their findings from the study, funded by the pharmaceutical company Merck, appear in the 1 September issue of the journal Sleep (paid subscription required).

The team analyzed data collected from more than 7,400 employed health plan subscribers, as part of the American Insomnia Study (AIS) conducted by Harvard Medical School in 2008-2009. Participants were asked about sleep habits and work attendance and performance, using standard international measures, such as the World Health Organization’s Health and Work Performance Questionnaire.

From the AIS data, the researchers estimated the prevalence of insomnia at 23.2 percent among employees overall. The results indicate working women have a higher rate (27.2%) of insomnia than their male counterparts (19.7%), with older workers (14.3%) significantly less likely to suffer from insomnia.

Employees with a high school education (25.3%) or some college education (26.4%) showed higher rates of insomnia, while staff with less than a high-school education (19.9%) and college graduates (21.5%) were less likely to experience insomnia.

The lost productivity due to insomnia resulted from workers coming to work tired or sick — called presenteeism — rather than missing work through absenteeism. The researchers calculated the lost workplace productivity per individual at 11.3 days or $2,280. On an aggregate annualized basis, the lost productivity from insomnia is estimated at 252.7 days and $63.2 billion.

Co-author James Walsh of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis notes that treatments for insomnia range from about $200 a year for a generic sleeping pill to up to $1,200 for behavioral therapy.

The study’s lead author Ronald Kessler of Harvard University’s medical school says “It’s an under-appreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia. They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired.” Kessler adds, “In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”

Read more: Water Cooled Cap Helps Relieve Primary Insomnia

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