Study Suggests $31 Billion in Workplace Losses Due to Insomnia

Tired Office Worker Sleeping Desk

Insomnia caused about 274,000 mistakes, resulting in $31 billion in losses from accidents and workplace errors over a year.

A new study indicates that insomnia lead to about 274,000 mistakes, which caused $31 billion in losses, due to accidents and workplace errors over a 12 month period.

Researchers used data from the America Insomnia Survey (AIS), which is a nationwide phone survey of people with health insurance that was administered to 10,094 Americans. The scientists published their findings in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. It’s by far the largest to look at the effects of insomnia at the workplace.

It’s obvious that a lack of sleep would lead to more mistakes at work, but only two small previous studies, carried out in France, tried to determine how many workers were affected.

Participants were asked whether they had “a workplace accident that either caused damage or work disruption with a value of $500 or more,” and also “Not counting accidents, did you ever in the past 12 months make a big mistake at work that cost your company $500 or more?” 20% of the participants reported having symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of insomnia and 4.3% of the respondents had committed serious errors over the past year. Insomnia made respondents almost twice as likely to commit an error or have an accident. The researchers estimate that between 10% and 15% of workplace errors and accidents are attributed to insomnia.

The average cost of an error or accident was over $20,000. The researchers extrapolated the cost of mistakes that occurred due to insomnia, coming up with $31 billion for the US.

The authors of the study believe that employers should screen for insomnia, which could also help reduce sick days, employee absences and improve the company’s bottom line.

Reference: “The Associations of Insomnia With Costly Workplace Accidents and ErrorsResults From the America Insomnia Survey” by Victoria Shahly, PhD; Patricia A. Berglund, MBA; Catherine Coulouvrat, MD; Timothy Fitzgerald, PhD; Goeran Hajak, MD; Thomas Roth, PhD; Alicia C. Shillington, PhD; Judith J. Stephenson, SM; James K. Walsh, PhD and Ronald C. Kessler, PhD, October 2012, Archives of General Psychiatry.
DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.2188

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