Untreated insomnia costs America $42B a year

Delays in the diagnosis and treatment of insomnia translates to at least $42 billion in direct and indirect healthcare costs each year.

Those delays also amount to billions of dollars in lost productivity and absenteeism in the American workforce, according to a report by Sanofi-Aventis U.S., with research and support from The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

“Waking Up to the Insomnia Crisis: How Insomnia is Costing America More Than $42 Billion a Year and What We Can Do About It” indicates as many as 70 million Americans may suffer from some form of insomnia, and a number of them are undiagnosed and untreated – even as the condition becomes a mounting financial burden on  employers and the healthcare system.

"We should treat insomnia as it should be treated: a serious medical condition that has significant health and economic implications,” said CMPI Vice President Robert Goldberg, Ph.D.  “Like other chronic diseases, insomnia has been managed according to the cost of treating patients instead of the cost the disease exacts on individuals, employers and society."

The report concludes:

  • People with insomnia miss work twice as much as those who do not suffer from the condition.
  • Insomnia costs employers about 4.4 days of wages per untreated individual over a six-month period, not including money spent on indirect costs, such as lost productivity and costs to treat the medical consequences of insomnia.
  • Healthcare professionals-in-training who work recurring 24-hour shifts with little sleep have been found to make 36 percent more serious medical errors and five times as many serious diagnostic errors than those whose work is limited to 16 consecutive hours.

"Lack of awareness about the condition and a communication gap between patients and physicians are to blame," said Goldberg. "Without the proper education and support, patients don't know how to communicate their sleep problems to a healthcare provider, which means the condition goes untreated – costing America billions of dollars at a time when we can ill afford it.”

"In order to break insomnia out of the 'lifestyle condition' box in which it has been placed, we must be able to engage and educate patients, healthcare professionals, health insurers and employers on different terms,” said CMPI President Peter Pitts. “For each audience, a new understanding of insomnia is imperative if we hope to successfully change attitudes and action. Every day without a change in course has consequence."

Proposals include:

  • Assemble a coalition of mainstream media, social media and private, corporate and government partners to raise public awareness of insomnia's impact on public health and the American economy.
  • Identify pathways for diagnosing and treating insomnia.
  • Execute targeted outreach to patients and healthcare providers based on specific criteria that reflect the latest findings in genetics, clinical research and outcomes data. Patients need to be able to identify and communicate insomnia symptoms and healthcare providers must be primed to identify patient complaints that indicate insomnia as well as be well-versed in available solutions.
  • Educate media, healthcare insurers and employers about their roles in spreading awareness, improving care and helping to move to a value-based treatment approach.
  • Encourage health plans and employers to design wellness programs that integrate insomnia management.

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