WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Insomnia-related workplace accidents happen more often and cost more than most employers could have imagined.
According to a Harvard Medical School study, is one more reason to think that lack of sleep may be the next great public health crisis-slash-business opportunity: As a society we seem to not be sleeping enough, and it’s costing everybody money.
Victoria Shahly, the leader of the study, compared insomnia with 18 other chronic conditions. Shahly’s team conducted a national telephone survey of nearly 5,000 commercially insured health plan members, measuring the incidence and severity of all the conditions using claims records and/or generally accepted self-reporting scales.
“Simulations estimated that insomnia was associated with 7.2% of all costly workplace accidents and errors and 23.7% of all the costs of these incidents. These proportions are higher than for any other chronic condition,” wrote Shahly.
Their broad findings, as reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry‘s October issue: The average costs of insomnia-related accidents and errors is slightly more than $32,000. That was nearly 50 percent more than the average cost of other accidents and errors (slightly less than $22,000).
Shahly’s group estimates the annual number of insomnia-related workplace accidents and errors at 274,000—adding up to a combined cost of $31.1 billion — A cause of concern to the 10,000-member National Association of Safety Professionals.
Roughly one in three working Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the Center for Disease Control, and sleep-deprivation is a serious enough issue that, “Increase the proportion of adults who get sufficient sleep” is one of the goals of Healthy People 2020, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program launched two years ago, according to Time.
However, the sleep-assistance industry (for lack of a better phrase) is booming, growing annually at nearly a double-digit pace and expected to hit $32 billion in 2012 by one estimate.
According to Time, confirmation that insomnia correlates strongly and expensively with workplace accidents and errors, one can expect the ranks of sleep disorder clinics, sleep consultants, sleep coaches, and other health-and-wellness solution providers to increase in number and to bombard HR departments with new ways to increase workers’ sleep and, thus, decrease the costs of those accidents and errors.