The new research carried out by scientists at Harvard Medical School and the University of Michigan used a questionnaire to gather information on sleep and insomnia from more than 7,000 adults. After crunching the numbers, the researchers came to some startling conclusions. Every year:
- The average U.S. worker with insomnia causes his or her employer 11.3 days and about $2,280 in lost productivity.
- Insomnia costs the U.S. workforce $63 billion in total.
Commenting on the findings to Ronald Kessler, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, said: "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. In an information-based economy, it's difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity."
So what are the underlying causes of such a high prevalence of insomnia? Speaking to HRE Online, Helen Darling, CEO of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit that represents large employers on health-policy issues, cited the tough economy:
People have a lot of things to keep them awake at night. Not only are the majority of employees worried about their finances now more than ever, but today everybody is so leanly staffed; non-revenue functions are about as lean as they can be. I don't think we're talking enough about the impact of insomnia on both employees' and employers' well-being.What can individuals do about this problem? Darling suggests bosses should be on the look out for exhausted looking employees and when they spot one, not simply ignore the circles under their eyes. "They should really say something like, 'You look like you're really tired today; we have an EAP [employee assistance] program; I had to call them recently; they helped me so much,'" Darling said.
With the costs of sleeplessness so high, the price tag for treatment -- about $200 a year for a generic sleeping pill or $1,200 for behavioral therapy, according to study co-author James K. Walsh, a scientist at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital -- seems like a bargain.
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