Study shows that insomnia responsible for costly errors and accidents on the job

It’s well-known that people who suffer insomnia have more health issues overall, but now studies show that they have a higher incidence of accidents and errors on the job. As a result, insomniacs cost employers more in errors and injuries.

A team of researchers led by Harvard PhD Ronald C. Kessler found that insomnia was linked to a 40% greater risk of workplace incidents that led to costs of $500 more for a company. The sleep disorder is estimated to be the cause of nearly 7% of workplace accidents leading to a financial loss. It is also responsible for 24% of all accident-related costs, which outpaces any other chronic conditions.

In reporting their findings in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, Dr. Kessler and colleagues estimated total costs to U.S. businesses to be roughly $31 million per year.

“These results suggest that workplace interventions aimed at screening for and treating insomnia to reduce workplace injuries, accidents and errors could have broad-based effects,” Kessler and colleagues wrote.

The report states that in controlled trials, high-quality treatment improved work performance, but such treatment has not been widely promoted by employers; this is perhaps due to the fact that companies haven’t see the direct benefit to the bottom line.

The data analyzed came from the America Insomnia Survey, a nationally-representative telephone survey of 10,094 privately-insured health plan workers chosen from an administrative claims database covering more than 34 million people.

The typical average cost for workplace incidents not related to insomnia is $21,914. In comparison, those related to insomnia ring in at $32,062, a significantly higher number. Out of the 4,991 analyzed respondents who were employed and had complete data on physical and mental comorbidities (other disorders closely related to the insomnia, such as depression and other chronic conditions), 20% screened positive for long-term insomnia lasting 12 months or more. Of these, a total of 4% indicated workplace accidents or errors that cost their company at least $500 over the 12 months prior.

After adjustment for age and other sociodemographic factors, Insomniacs were 90% more likely to indicate expensive accidents on the job and 40% more likely to have made expensive work errors. In some cases, costs were up to $100,000 for accidents and $1 million for errors. Odds of errors and accidents individually were close at 1.3 and 1.5 respectively. If translated to the U.S. population, that would mean 223,000 workers having expensive workplace accidents and 317,000 responsible for costly errors on the job that would not have occurred had insomnia not been an issue.

Dr. Kessler and his team noted that the data gathered only applied to privately insured individuals and might not hold across the board for the uninsured or publicly insured. They also emphasized that they could not validate the estimates for cost of errors and accidents, nor were there clinical interviews to confirm an insomnia diagnosis. All the numbers were strictly self-reported by survey respondents.

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