Insomnia plagues 23 percent of US workforce: Should employers intervene?

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2011-09-01 09:02

In a new finding, researchers estimate that 23 percent of the U.S. workforce suffers from insomnia. The annual cost to employers is $63.2 billion and 257.2 days in lost productivity annually. The finding suggests it may be worthwhile for employers to invest on interventions to help employees get better sleep.

Researchers say they were “shocked” to find the "enormous impact” of insomnia in the workplace that is largely ignored by employers because it’s not considered an illness and typically doesn’t lead to time away from work.

Cost of insomnia underappreciated by employers

According to lead author Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., Insomnia is "… 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."

In the study, "Insomnia and the performance of US workers: Results from the America Insomnia Survey”, researchers found working women suffer higher rates of insomnia than do men.

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"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, a psychiatric epidemiologist with the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. "Can U.S. employers afford not to address insomnia in workplace?"

James K. Walsh, Ph.D., executive director and senior scientist at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield, Mo. Says a sleeping pill costs about $200 a year. Interestingly, the study was sponsored by the Merck & Co.

Behavioral therapy to treat insomnia costs approximately $1200 a year says Walsh.

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