October 2, 2012
It may not be surprising that people who are insomniacs are more likely to make mistakes or have accidents on the job, but those errors can cost U.S. employers billions in losses each year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a new study published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry estimates that insomnia, a disorder that makes it difficult to fall or stay asleep, leads to accidents and errors costing about $30 billion annually in employer costs.
"Accidents and errors directly affect the corporate bottom line," Victoria Shahly, Harvard Medical School instructor, clinical psychologist and lead author of the study, told Health Day.
While the idea that tired workers are more prone to mistakes may not seem like a novel concept, the Los Angeles Times noted that there were just two previous studies, both done in France, that examined how many workers were affected by insomnia. While those focused on the relationship between insomnia and employee attendance, this study, said to be the largest and most extensive ever, analyzed the effect of insomnia in the workplace.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the study's researchers used data from the American Insomnia Survey, which was conducted nationwide in 2008 and 2009 by phone and included 10,094 people, all of whom had health insurance. Not only did the survey seek information about whether participants had had a workplace accident, but also whether such accidents had cost their employers $500 or more.
An in-depth analysis done on approximately half of the respondents showed that 20 percent of them had had insomnia for at least 12 months. The study also showed that insomniacs commonly made work mistakes that cost employers an average of more than $20,000. Insomniacs were also 90 percent more likely to report expensive accidents at work and 40 percent more likely to make a pricey mistake, according to MedPage Today. Some 4.3 percent of respondents had had a serious accident or made a significant error in the past year, reported the Los Angeles Times.
In all, researchers estimated that 10 to 15 percent of accidents and errors occurring on the job could be linked to insomnia. They suggested that employers screen their employees for insomnia and encourage them to seek related treatment for the disorder.
Yet, Kevin Morgan, director of Loughborough University's Clinical Sleep Research Unit in England, told Health Day that treating people for insomnia could end up costing more than the workplace mishaps that result from the disorder.
"You can feed them sleeping tablets -- this works in the short term -- but then it goes bad, creating drug-dependent patients who get little benefit from their drugs," Morgan said in Health Day. "Ironically, you then have to invest in withdrawal programs to get them off drugs, only to find that the insomnia -- which was there all the time -- returns."
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"Insomnia can be a costly disorder, increasing errors on the job," latimes.com, October 1, 2012, Jon Bardin
"Sleepy Workers Make Costly Mistakes," medpagetoday.com, October 1, 2012, Crystal Phend
Study Links Insomnia to $31 Billion in U.S. Workplace Errors," healthday.com, October 1, 2012, Randy Dotinga