Study: Inadequate Sleep Cost Australia $45.21 Billion In 2016-2017

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Published by Oxford University Press in the peer-reviewed journal SLEEP, titled “The Economic Cost Of Inadequate Sleep,” a new study explores the economic impact of what is considered a significant worldwide public health problem — inadequate sleep.

Previous research indicates that between 33 and 45 percent of Australian adults suffer from inadequate sleep. Thirty-seven percent of adults in the United Kingdom don’t feel they’re getting enough sleep, neither do 30 percent of Canadians. Thirty-five percent of U.S. adults are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. Twenty-six percent of adults in France report insufficient sleep, as do 28 percent of Singaporeans.

Study authors, David Hillman, Scott Mitchell, Jared Streatfeild, Chloe Burns, Dorothy Bruck, and Lynne Pezzullo defined inadequate sleep as “difficulties with sleep initiation, maintenance or quality associated with the presence of impaired daytime alertness.”

Associated with reduced motivation, lapses in attention, memory lapses, confusion, loss of empathy, irritability, impaired communication, confusion, compromised problem solving, inadequate sleep – apart from increasing the risks of depression, obesity, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and hypertension – have dire economic consequences, researchers claim.

In order to measure the economic consequences of inadequate sleep, researchers derived data from national databases and surveys. Costs associated with healthcare and informal care provided outside the healthcare sector were taken into consideration, as were productivity losses, vehicle accident costs, non-medical work, and non-financial costs of well-being. All costs were expressed in U.S. dollars.

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Comprised of direct health costs for sleep disorders and associated conditions, the financial cost component amounted to staggering $17.88 billion total. The productivity loses component amounted to $12.9 billion; $0.61 billion in premature death costs, $4.63 billion a result of workers not performing well, $5.22 billion due to reduced employment, and $1.73 billion was associated with workers absent from the job due to sleep difficulties or problems associated with inadequate sleep.

Non-medical costs, the researchers wrote, amounted to $2.46 billion. This includes informal healthcare costs of $.041 billion, as well as dead-weight loss (inefficiencies related to lost taxation revenue) of $1.56 billion. Lastly, the non-financial cost, reduced well-being, was estimated at $27.33 billion in losses.

In total, the estimated overall cost of inadequate sleep in Australia, a country with a population of 28 million, was $45.21 billion in 2016-2017.

In a press release supplied to Science Daily, the researchers concluded the following.

“Apart from its impact on well-being, this problem comes at a huge economic cost through its destructive effects on health, safety and productivity. Addressing the issue by education, regulation and other initiatives is likely to deliver substantial economic as well as health benefits.”

This public health issue, researchers argue, needs to be addressed through regulation and education. Meaning, the governments should invest in preventive health measures in order to target inadequate sleep, just like they have successfully handled smoking, depression, and diabetes.