With the problem of inadequate sleep affecting more and more people around the world, researchers have found that the financial and non-financial costs associated with it could cost a country billions of dollars. For the study, David Hillman of the University of Western Australia and his colleagues attempted to measure the economic consequences of limited sleep times in Australia. The findings, published in the journal Sleep, showed that the overall cost of inadequate sleep in Australia in 2016-17 was an estimated $45.21 billion.
The situation is likely to be similar in equivalent economies, the study said. “We are in the midst of a worldwide epidemic of inadequate sleep, some from clinical sleep disorders, some through pressure from competing for work, social and family activities and some from failure to give sleep sufficient priority through choice or ignorance,” the researchers said. “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,” they added.
Insufficient sleep is associated with lapses in attention and the inability to stay focused and compromised problem solving ability, among other isues such as slowed or faulty information processing and judgment.
Furthermore, short sleep is also known to increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression. For the current study, the researchers evaluated financial and non-financial cost data which were derived from national surveys and databases in Australia. Costs considered included financial costs associated with health care, informal care provided outside the healthcare sector, productivity losses, non-medical work and vehicle accident costs, deadweight loss through inefficiencies relating to lost taxation revenue and welfare payments; and nonfinancial costs of a loss of well-being.
The financial cost component was $17.88 billion, non-financial cost of reduced well-being was $27.33 billion, the study said. The researchers argued that these costs warrant substantial investment in preventive health measures to address the issue through education and regulation. The findings could have implications for other countries as well as the growth of the problem of insufficient sleep in Australia over time is shared by other nations with similar demographics.
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